Guitar Heroes and the art of living

It’s true that this blog often expresses the surrealist’s point of view. Occasionally other views are required, after all art is art, even if it is in the form of an idea. Each artist uses different approaches in painting his personal truth and the way he perceives the world; some of them, with tiny touches on the canvas, sometimes with aggressive circular ones creating the sense of movement. Others are masters in color, or shades of light and darkness; some with the talent to paint the most controversial smiles. What we see in the paintings depends on who we are and consequently what we expect to see. It certainly depends on the way we approach things.

Thus, we like some pieces of art, dislike others and some of them pass without catching our attention. The same applies of course for all forms of art, whether it is painting, music, and also on all things in life – our personal perspective plays the most significant role. Even the priorities and the points of judgment are a most personalized process.  However we can all agree, that art is art, regardless our personal favorites. There is of course a good reason for this extended introduction. But I’ll get back to that in a minute.

A few months back, while having one of our usual marathon-5 hour –conversations with a close friend, and while exploring musical matters, she mentioned the name Jason Becker. He is a guitar player which became famous not only about his skill being a guitar virtuoso but also about his speed in playing. I immediately thought to myself ‘I bet his Mercury is running at wild speed!’ What I didn’t know -and about which she informed me shortly after- was that Jason was diagnosed (when he was 20 years old) with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – known also as Lou Gehrig's disease. So he soon became unable to move or speak. Despite his illness he didn’t give up his music, and still composes with the aid of a computer. That won Jason one of the top places in my personal guitar heroes list.

I guess that by now the kind reader has understood why I’ve started with that intro, as while one would expect to find other names under the title of the article, will find others. My hope is that the quick study of the guitar heroes I’ve chosen will be rewarding in more ways than on a purely musical or astrological level.

Jason Becker: the perpetual fighter

Our first guitar hero, Jason Becker, was born 22nd July 1969, Richmond, CA. Unfortunately I was unable to find a birth time, but there are many interesting points to study even without it. The chart is casted for noon.
The first point that catches the eye is the Sun/Mercury at the very last degree of Cancer.First of all let’s walk in Sun’s shoes for awhile: wandering for a long time and finally sees the door of his home. Is he happy? He’s ecstatic! Does he want to move forward? Of course he does! So, our first point in this chart is the indication of a native that is happy to move forward in life. Even if the birth occurred later in the day so the Sun has entered Leo, the mentality will be the same: an extremely happy Sun.

Mercury is at the point of changing sign. He’ll go from a phlegmatic sign to a choleric one. That should mean a fundamental change on his priorities: while he is at the moment motivated by desires he’ll be motivated to act and create and from a mute sign to a half-voiced. What’s making this Mercury all the more interesting is that he is indeed running at quite a wild speed: a bit more than 2 degrees per day. He’s fast and becoming fiery! This among other things describes his guitar skills. One could be tempted to assume the birth occurred a bit later, with Mercury just entering Leo: feral, fiery and fast! But, we can avoid the temptation to read in and keep the important point, which is speed!

His Moon is in a Choleric phase, in a Phlegmatic sign: she wants to create and act but as she is located in a phlegmatic sign, the action and creation is realized towards desires – and the desires are fixed, so this Moon is intensely motivated too.

Not a surprise that his first album as a member of the duo called Cacophony, was named ‘Speed Metal Symphony’ or that the name of his first solo album was ‘Perpetual Burn’ (his Moon probably had a say on this one!). Well described I think, even only from those few factors of the chart; and among the music and the guitars, a true fighter.  The best closure on this brief approach of the chart is his own words: ‘I have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It has crippled my body and speech, but not my mind!’ One can only bow before this living inspiration. My respects, Jason! (1)

‘Django’ Reinhardt: Minor swings and hot guitars

The next guitar hero comes from another age and musical culture, though he too, was an exceptional guitar player and in fact one that invented a new style of playing: the word about Mr. Jean ‘Django’ Reinhardt, commonly known by his nickname Django, a Romani word that means ‘I awake’. He was born at January 23rd, 1910.

There is a planet that draws the attention, at the top of the chart, in square with the Asc/ DC axis: Saturn. This makes him the first focus point, as it is located on a key place of the chart: posited where the Midheaven should be. As the Midheaven is connected with the career and of course our public image, has a lot to say about Django’s way to present himself in the world. This Saturn is also important because he rules 3 planets, out of which one is the Sun, with whom is strongly tied as they are in a Mutual Reception, while both debilitated.

This Saturn is located in Aries, the sign opposite to his exaltation therefore he is in his fall. This is a kind of Saturn that has some obscure ideas about its natural connection with restrictions, rules, confines. His public image was marked by a complete disregard of rules. He came and left as he pleased. He appeared on stage late and left anytime he felt like it. Some said that if you were to catch him on stage you should probably go after the show was over, or seek for him at the other side of the street. And of course, his career as a player and composer was marked by his unique way of playing along with his inimitable talent to improvise and melodies that were out of the norm or popular fashion. This Saturn exalts the Sun the ‘Me’ part of him. So, we could safely assume that he wasn’t a follower, but a leader. He wanted things done his own way. As mentioned Saturn and Sun are tied in a Mutual Reception, while both debilitated: this is an important part of his personality and a point that was among others a decisive factor on how he lived his life. The Sun, is also the Lord of his 3rd house, the house that shows the way we live our life, our personal law. His lifestyle was certainly out of the ordinary.

Jupiter is applying to oppose this Saturn, across this virtual IC/MC axis. Jupiter is Lord 6 and 10 in the chart. As our focus is the career, and personality, we can see how Saturn again takes over this chart.

We find the other most important player, the Moon, which in this chart is also Lord of the Ascendant, in Cancer.  She exalts Jupiter and is in Saturn’s detriment. In the context created above, we can again find an indication about how he feels about social restrictions, austerity and the letter of the law, in the form they are perceived in the chart, that is, in the form of this Saturn in Aries - and of course how Django feels about 7th house type people. He’s not that fond of them! Consequently, one part him is happy being involved with others in this obscure living (Sun), while another is not at all. Moon next applies to square this applying opposition between Jupiter/Saturn so she is much involved in the action. Naturally he will be often torn:  his core of personality and the way that he is expressed. That’s one reason he appeared to be most unpredictable. Considering the fact that all that is mentioned worked on a Phlegmatic temperament we can say, especially unpredictable, motivated by desires, for better or worse.

However, the above are not the reason I chose his chart for this article. At age 18, Django had a serious accident: he started a fire by mistake and while he and his first wife were saved, he suffered serious burns on one of his hands and leg. 2 fingers were paralyzed along with his leg. While the doctors said he could never properly walk or play his guitar again, after a little over a year of hard work he managed to do both. But again – even if that fact is in itself a sign of another great soul or at least a strong will, the most amazing point about his case is the way he incorporated this debility to his nature, and made it into something beneficial; a trademark of his way of playing, so extraordinary that no one was able to imitate since.

Mercury, his artistic skill, is in a Sanguine sign. He is in bad way: Retrograde and Combusted by the Sun, which is detrimental. Which is a nice lesson for the astrology student when assessing the nature of the planets; we see how this native turned debilities into unique abilities suggesting that we should be flexible enough to what the chart is trying to say and more importantly to its owner! One would be tempted – again- to read into this point his burned, debilitated fingers: Mercury as the fingers and Combusted, burned, by the Sun. But we must keep in mind that no matter what the natal chart shows, it may or it may not be expressed in a literal way, it may happen or not. If we are to find if something actually happens we are forced to do the work and check it out with the prediction techniques. Hence not all people with this placement became famous guitar players, burned their fingers, or were the fabulous Mr. Django for that matter.

What we can get from this placement of Mercury is firstly that it is in a fixed airy sign: practice, experimenting, practice and then, more practice! Retrograde and Combusted, an unusual kind of playing - Sun is ‘Me’ so one of his concerns would certainly have been to stand out. Being Combusted, all of his ‘Me’ runs through the Mercury. This Me (Sun) is already standing out for his bohemian, unconventional lifestyle as we have seen. A heritage of his Romani origin, some may suggest. I personally think that he would have been unconventional no matter what his origin may had been, because being out of the ordinary was part of his nature. But as his origin was a big part of his personal context we can be sure that his nature should fit right in the nomadic style of life. This Mercury seen as his guitar skill was nurtured and gathered stimuli from this environment. It wasn’t sent to a conservatoire to learn how to play or compose music. It learned by listening and mimicking the elder musicians. It learned to improvise and play freely; it learned to play with what was available and to adjust that to serve his music. It never learned how to write or read music and never cared to! Consequently the second point for the astrology student is that we must judge the nature of things in the context of the life we’re investigating.

The Moon is Choleric in a Phlegmatic sign: she wants to create and act into desire. I’d call that a motivated Moon. And being in a Cardinal sign, she’s impulsive; reacts and adjusts fast to the environmental incentives. This is to my view a good indication of his natural talent, ability to quickly master his art and successfully improvise. She certainly was a member to the Hot Club of France!

And a very nice detail for the end: Moon, Lord 1, is the most oriental planet, at the Rising area of the chart, giving an imaginary picture of someone that just rouse and stands alert. Not a surprise he got the nickname ‘I awake’; a name that so beautifully, I think, describes the essence of this inspirational personality and his art.  (2)

Bohemian rhapsody: ‘Make the most of the best and the least of the worst(R. L. Stevenson)

A long – long time ago, humans decided to renounce their nomadic lifestyle and settle down. They built new social and belief systems, rules and founded great cities. No more bugs in the tent or bad smelling camels ruining your ideal sunset! Finally, hot water, electricity, internet and proper eating manners; no more drifting here and there trying to find food or trade goods; a wise thing to do if you ask me – or rather my Virgo Mars! However, there was a very serious side effect that no one warned them about…

Being a proper nomad you had to know many things in order to survive: how to navigate your way using the Stars, building a decent fire, finding food; how to deal with cranky camels or crazy horses, or even worse, dealing with dangerous animals that see humans as lunch; to predict the weather reading natural signs and locating water. I do apologize for damaging the dear (romantic) reader’s perception of nomadic life, of course.   It was indeed a difficult, dangerous and austere life.

This way of living though, gifted our nomadic ancestors with a significant advantage compared to us, their settled sons and daughters. They knew how to adjust to any environment they had to live in and to make the most of what was available to them. ‘Making the most of what is available’ was essential to their survival. What has changed is our context- it is no longer ever changing, it has a few fixed points, a point of reference, a home and a structure. Since the environment was ‘settled’, humans found it was no longer necessary to adjust to different environments, because now they were able to create an environment to fit them and stick with it. The problem is, it is essential to our survival too, no matter how settled we or our context may have become. That because, while the environment can be created or controlled to a point, life cannot be controlled.

Those two charts I’ve chosen to briefly investigate here were chosen as two good examples of making the most of what is available; which is perhaps the way to deal with astrology and consequently with our personal story, regardless if we like the scenario or not. Some are destined to live a Science Fiction scenario while they’d rather live a Comedy. Like the nomad that had to live in the desert for instance – I’m sure he’d rather live in a holiday resort with a spa, but he was in the desert! Instead of living in delusions of turning the desert into a holiday resort, he found ways to make the most of what the desert had to offer.  Not much for the untrained unwilling eye, but so many wonderful and unique things for the eye that’s actually willing to see; this I regard as the Art of living.

 (1) Jason Becker, ‘Not dead yet’ movie trailer: