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Your Age of Air

Image: Visualization of air currents by Tobias Gunther

As part of winding down 2022 and starting to look forward to 2023, it’s helpful to remember that we are living through nothing less than the dawn of a new era! There are not just one but three big cycles that are conspiring to create a substantive shift toward the element of air, and that is exactly what it sounds like–there will be more airy themes. Air themes and things include information; relationships between things; thoughts and intellect; ideas and ideologies; the internet and other virtual networks; anything you’d call “negative space;” and the actual air itself. The evidence of this shift toward air is already all around us, and could not get more literal. We are three years into an airborne global pandemic that has made all of us aware of indoor air quality, the mind-body connection, and what comes out of our mouths when we speak, sing, or sneeze. It pushed us all onto Zoom for more things, and enabled us to work remotely instead of in brick and mortar offices. It has also radicalized many of us, on both sides of the political spectrum.

Here’s the quick and dirty astrology of this shift. First, Jupiter and Saturn, the planet of visionary leadership and the planet of realistic management, met in the air sign of Aquarius late December 2020. This happens every 20 years, and reliably predicts cycles of governance and growth. It happens in signs of the same element–earth, air, fire, or water–for about 200 years at a time. This conjunction in Aquarius marked the end of 200 years of earth signs, and the beginning of a new “age of air.” These conjunctions will happen in air signs for the next couple of centuries, and describe “airy” growth, leadership, and movements. Second, Venus’ regular cycle of meetups with the Sun just became more weighted toward air. Venus signifies love, attraction, accord, and justice, among other things. Her recent conjunction with the sun in the air sign of Libra on October 22, 2022 is a new regular thing that will keep happening for the next century or so. Lastly, on March 8, 2023, Pluto, a/k/a Lord of the Underworld, will slowly move out of the earth sign of Capricorn, where it has been breaking down all the institutions and authorities that can no longer be trusted with power since 2008, and begin an incremental, deep excavation of our ideological beliefs in the air sign of Aquarius, where it will be until 2043.

These are forces that are much larger than our individual lives, but they do impact us as individuals in three ways. First, it’s good to know that we are still in the very first years of a centuries-long cultural project akin to the Industrial Revolution, and that we are all participating in whether we want to or not–the pandemic is a great illustration of that! There are things we will do because we have to like a pandemic, incentives to decarbonize, or pressure on employers to retain workers by offering hybrid or remote work. There are also things we get to do! Individuals can leverage these forces by making conscious choices to go with the flow. It’s also a time when a lot of not so great changes could happen to you if you don’t make some choices. 2023 will start off pretty mellow and slow, and build and build as the weather gets warmer. So maybe while you’re cuddled up this winter you could take a little time to imagine your age of air. Here are just a few thoughts to get you started, but by no means should you confine yourselves to these topics. If it’s categorizable under the element of “air,” it’s on the table.

Big changes are possible, but you’ll still have to work for the changes you want.

You know how the pandemic enabled a lot of people to make big changes that they would never have been able to justify otherwise? The possibility of big changes actually happening is still very much a thing. Where in your life do things need to get more “airy,” meaning more open, networked, virtual, decarbonized, or relationship based? What heavy loads are you carrying by yourself that you could distribute? What’s the “negative space” of your life, and is it fully considered? What do you have that you don’t really need, or don’t need all the time? This shift to an age of air could foster a pretty grand reimagining of daily life so that it includes more sharing of resources and mutual aid. More types of businesses could find themselves with both a local and a global audience. Any investments you make to reduce your personal reliance on fossil fuels are likely to be met with more incentives, support, and infrastructure. For some people, an age of air lifestyle might include living with less, or prioritizing experiences over stuff.

Just be aware that this is only one side of a coin, and an age of air does not automatically mean “an age of progressive things I want.” Authoritarian regimes, religious law, the Republican party shifting from principled conservatism to finding itself caught up in the random chaos of a morally bankrupt blowhard whose only real skill seems to be owning the news cycle… these are all great examples of the age of air manifesting itself, too.

You don’t have to choose a side, and when you do you can do it with compassion.

Ideas and ideologies are definitely described by the air element, and are particularly Aquarian, a sign that has been front and center lately and will continue to be into the 2040’s. It’s no surprise that political polarization and extreme views feature prominently in this new landscape. You get to decide how you are going to live in that! Personally, I am going to try reminding myself for the rest of my life that everybody honestly and genuinely believes that they are right, and that 99.99% of the time it’s more important to understand where people are coming from and what they need than attempt to convince them of anything I believe, or punish them for their beliefs. I actually believe this is true even when the Other is saying things that are hurtful because they’re racist, or sexist, or any other -ist. Holding people accountable and punishment are different, and punishment is incredibly ineffective when it comes to social change. When was the last time you got called out and said “Yeah! This person who is attacking me is right, and I am wrong! That verbal assault was just what I needed to change my mind!”

One “age of air” perspective is that structural oppression hurts everybody because we are all interconnected, so learning how to lovingly call in is going to be valuable as we walk toward more and more interconnectedness. And maintaining curiosity about points of view that differ from yours; being able to have a conversation with someone who holds opinions that you find hateful or even just batshit crazy; and being ready to compassionately hold someone who is changing their mind–these could all be adaptive skills moving forward.

You get to decide what kind of knowledge worker you are going to be.

I am renovating a house right now, and one thing I am struck by is the way every single technician and laborer is regularly doing knowledge work–answering emails, consulting the small computers in their pockets to get answers, messaging one another and me. Working on a computer and managing information is now the way everybody works. And I think this winter is a good inflection point for taking a moment and making some decisions about how you want and need to do that work. Just because you can have three social media tabs open at all times and constant news alerts breaking your concentration and emails dinging away doesn’t mean you should! In fact, a writer I value, Cal Newport, suggests that the ability to pay attention and sustain focus on one substantive, creative task over time is going to become increasingly valuable, because it’s getting so much more difficult. I think it’s wise to work on this skill now by training the mind, putting good email, phone, and social media habits in place, and doing focused, deep work on a regular basis. Discipline, like information overload, is an age of air thing. And it’s not like anybody’s going to decide for you that there need to be fewer distractions in your workspace over the next 200 years!

You will still have a physical body, but embodiment is going to become more of a choice.

This is perhaps one of the most negative consequences of entering an age of air. We are increasingly leaving our bodies to be more and more fully inside screens. We all know that this makes us more and more sedentary, and that this has negative health consequences. This problem of disembodiment goes beyond where we put our attention and our bodies. We are also changing the metrics by which we judge health–children are significantly weaker and less physically coordinated than they were in the 1980’s, for example, and we responded to this by redefining what normal strength and coordination for 12 year olds is. In addition to moving the goalpost, we are developing ideologies that can be used to keep unhealthy bodies unhealthy, and support harmful things like agribusiness, such as more radical expressions of body positivity. These are both instances of using a conceptual framework to change what we perceive instead of addressing actual problems! And that is a very age of air behavior.

Even in an age of air, you will have a body. Whether it is a reliable source of pleasure and support or a font of pain and misery that drags you down will increasingly depend on whether you can reliably feel how your life and choices affect your body, and can make sound decisions to reliably support, challenge, and nourish your body. In an age of air, I am going to suggest that the best way to consistently choose embodiment might be to start with the breath. Learning how to breathe well–through the nose, without overbreathing, far more slowly–is important if we are going to keep weathering airborne illness, wearing masks, and so on. And maybe it’s a good gateway drug that could get you to a yoga class, or lead to noticing your shoulders, or how long you have been sitting, or how good it feels to get up.

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