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October, 1997

"I'm Better at Fighting Wars Than I Am at Relationships"
Part 2

Babylon -- Five, "Racing Mars," syndicated television episode, 1997.

Forever Knight and Highlander and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues -- syndicated television shows.

Highlander: The Measure of A Man by Nancy Holden (Warner Aspect, paperback, 1997).

Karmic Relationships by Martin Schulman (non-fiction on the astrology of relationships; Weiser paperback, 1984).

Ancestor's World, A Novel of StarBridge by A. C. Crispin and T. Jackson King (Ace Science Fiction,1996).

Last month, we discussed relationships as seen on various television shows such as Babylon Five, Forever Knight, Highlander and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues -- syndicated television shows with particular emphasis on the training of a magician. Here in Part 2 of this article, we'll look more closely at Babylon 5 and Captain Sheridan's philosophy of life.

Relationships, such as love, war, business, sex, marriage, adversary, ally, confidant, parent, child, etc. are, according to Noel Tyl -- the noted astrologer whom I quoted in the August column -- delineated in the natal chart. He wrote: "Horoscopes relate to horoscopes; people attract or antagonize each other predictably."

Martin Schulman's book, Karmic Relationships, systematically delineates male-female relationships via the aspects formed between natal planets. Of course there's a whole lot more to relationship than that and most of our relationships aren't with the opposite gender -- but I've found this particular little manual's broad generalizations to hit the mark more often than it misses.

If you add to Schulman's vague little paragraphs all the information encoded in a natal chart by house, sign and aspect position in each of the two natal charts, and correlate all that with, as Noel Tyl told us, "Genes and environment (zeitgeist, culture, family)" that "adjust the astrology," and if we can extract from this what the point of each of the two people's lives is and understand how those two points will blend, clash, or reinforce one another, then we would have a reliable indicator for what karmic forces might be in effect in a given relationship.

This sort of in-depth discernment is more art than science -- because an astrologer can do it only by referencing his/her own personal reality concept. Each astrologer is both enabled and limited by their own identity and prejudices -- just as a fiction writer is.

However, the "teacher" that appears to a reader of fiction when the student is ready is not the fiction writer. Nor the actor nor even the character. The "teacher" can be reality itself, the Divine or your ability to glimpse the Divine, your own subconscious trying to scream loudly enough for you to hear, or possibly an inner planes Master (or not-so-Master; just because an entity is disembodied does not mean that entity is wiser than you, nor does it indicate the entity is benign. Figure the distribution among the disembodied to be about the same as you encounter on the Internet.)

It is not the teacher who is important. It is the lesson and what you choose to do with that lesson that is important. And as with the choice of relating via war or love is a free will choice, so also is the choice of what you do with the lessons of life a free will choice.

As I see it at this moment, the lesson that appears to me from Sheridan's line in "Racing Mars" is that America's general public (or Hollywood) assumes -- as a kind of prejudice -- good warriors are not good at personal relationships but being a warrior is the best thing there is to be so it's okay not to be good at personal relationships if you're good at being a warrior.

According to a lot of the self-help books I've encountered lately, a lot of the currently tragic divorce rate is due to marriages being turned into a combat zone by road warriors who aren't good at personal relationships. And the advised counter-move is for the non-warrior to learn warrior skills and either fight the war fair or learn self-defense.

Months ago, I focused a few of these columns around Suzette Haden Elgin's self-help book series called Verbal Self-Defense, in particular Genderspeak, and her novel series that exemplifies the principles of language, Native Tongue, The Judas Rose and Earthsong. In Genderspeak, Elgin contradicts the prevailing theory that men and women speak different languages. But she does point out that men and the prevailing cultures in the business place tend to use language as a combat weapon, not a communications tool.

Her thesis is that by becoming aware of different styles and purposes of language use -- by not assuming everyone around you is using language the same way you are -- you can actually change your relationships.

I have a number of older self-help books on my archive shelves and have seen even more on bookstore shelves, all purporting to teach people a few tricks which will change their relationships. One is called Human Be-ing or "How To Have A Creative Relationship Instead of A Power Struggle" by William V. Pietsch from Signet, 1974.

"A power struggle" is what the "war" or "adversarial" relationship is.

These books sell extraordinarily well. Apparently there are a lot of people struggling through life feeling that their main problem is badly managed relationships.

Meanwhile, a popular television shining hero, Captain Sheridan of Babylon 5 (in "Racing Mars" there's a scene in which people on Babylon 5 are nearly worshipping Sheridan because he returned as a living legend) explains that he is better at war than relationship in a tone of voice that indicated to me a sort of shy but rueful pride in the lack of skill at relationships.

This little snippet of a scene says to me, "To be really great at what society admires, rewards, covets and sanctions, one must be bad at relationships. It is a badge of honor to be bad at personal relationships." Even though both activities, war and love, require the same basic skill set -- mature adulthood -- one can be a great warrior and bad at relationships.

To me, a more appropriate tone of voice for delivering Sheridan's line, more appropriate "body language" (the book Body Language by Julius Fast, Pocket Books, 1970) would be the same one that a father might use to admit to his teenage son who is a high school valedictorian that he's never learned to read and has hidden that shameful fact all his life.

Contrast Sheridan's attitude with that of Duncan MacLeod of Highlander. Duncan is a serial monogamist who maintains his relationships the way he maintains his sword -- religiously and as if his life depends on it. He is a fully committed practitioner of the martial arts and could never have delivered that line of Sheridan's. Is Sheridan just a young, unformed version of MacLeod? Or is Sheridan something else? Which of the two would you like to raise your child to emulate?

Remember that television does not set or create values. Television represents widely held values (or the current Hollywood perception of what values are widely held).

You can learn a lot about others and society by watching television carefully and even more by listening separately to both dialogue and underlying music. The background music actually instructs your subconscious which emotions to raise within you in order to color in the details of what you're seeing and hearing. To understand the opinion of the viewer that Hollywood is expressing, you must listen not just to the words, but to the tone of voice and the background music with all your critical faculties engaged.

Notice how Sheridan's one little line means something very different to me than to you because of the huge, variegated and deep context in which I am embedded -- that is so different from your own.

I hear Sheridan's line, and I think of Highlander, Forever Knight, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, Nancy Holden's Highlander novel, Measure of a Man, and Noel Tyl's books on astrology along with Martin Schulman's Karmic Relationships and a large assortment of other astrology books, plus all of the tarot that I know and live. All of this floods through me in an instant like one of the flashbacks on Forever Knight or Highlander.

I hear this line and I see a society that sanctions and lauds bad relationships, that admires the winner and shuns the loser of the zero-sum game and won't permit anyone to opt out of that game. I hear this line and I see a society that's consuming self-help books on relationship management at a record pace. I hear this line and I see a society that looks upon mastering relationship as just another zero-sum game that you have to get good at to succeed at relationships -- that relationships have to be negotiated because you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. I hear this line and I see the sales statistics on novels whose plots are relationship driven. And the underlying thesis is: you can change your relationships by an act of will just as you can win a game by being too tough to quit.

And I look at astrology and I see that the best astrologer I know of sees that "horoscopes relate to horoscopes; people attract or antagonize each other predictably."

The television is telling our subconscious minds that social acceptance and success depends on being bad at relationships. Self-help books are "empowering" our conscious minds to change our relationships by changing our behavior habits. (In other words, if you 'fail' at relating to some particular person, it's because you have bad relationship habits -- and other people succeed because they have successful habits.)

Meanwhile, astrology is saying that the shape and form of a relationship is inherent in the horoscopes involved (and actually there are three: the two people's natal charts and the chart for the nativity of the relationship -- i.e. when they met -- or when they married etc.).

Every married couple knows that their relationship changed drastically after marriage. Few realize that this is because the natal horoscope for the marriage isn't the same as the one governing their moment of meeting.

Astrology tells us that the basic outline of the relationship will always remain fixed -- or at least two-thirds of it will, though subsequent events, such as marriage, may color some things. The natal horoscopes of the two who are relating are fixed. This gives you a predictable pattern of harmonies and disharmonies in the relationship. What can and does change is how you handle these harmonies and disharmonies as the two of you mature.

Which brings us to a novel in a fairly successful series that seems aimed at the younger reader, perhaps mid-teens: Ancestor's World by A. C. Crispin and T. Jackson King.

To see clearly how this novel approaches relationships you would have to read at least some of the earlier novels in the series. This "series" is actually a "shared universe" invented by A. C. Crispin to serve as a template for various authors to expound on their own favorite things. The first novel tells of the founding of "StarBridge" -- a sort of university and research facility to turn out "interrelators" -- trained xenologists who understand how cultures react and relate to each other. Thus StarBridge turns out the "glue" that holds a vast and growing federation of many species together into a society that works.

In this novel, King has brought together some of the original characters that Crispin introduced and has shown us how their relationships have grown, stressed, broken and reformed over the years of building the star-bridges.

Here we visit a planet where a giant dam is being constructed, and archeologists from StarBridge and elsewhere have teamed up to race against time to rescue this ancient past. And for the most part, they succeed at that. In the process, they have love affairs that mark them but do not divert their course through life, face dangers that anneal their personalities in the fires of fear, take risks for the sake of a people whose values are very strange, and come to understand that not even this isolated backwater is safe from the predations of the outside world (there are slavers snatching folk from this peaceful outback).

The hero of this story is archeology -- and few young people could read this novel without considering a career in archeology. It shows us the hardships, the dangers, and the rewards of this craft but without undue glamour. This is science fiction in the traditional vein established by Hal Clement, Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein.

But I think most importantly, it gives young people a glimpse into the problem of relationships from a different angle than you will see on television.

These people allow others to whom they relate to be different. Very little of the wordage is devoted to the relationships and they are not the plot-driving mechanism, however this is a much more realistic view of the relationship between relationships and the tasks of life outside of relationship than is currently available in a romance novel.

Next month we'll examine the mastery of perspective and perhaps that will put this commentary on war and relationship into yet another light.

Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952.





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Reviewed by Jacqueline Lichtenberg