Yesterday, for the first time in over a month, the local news site did not lead with the number of pandemic illnesses and deaths. It led with more “normal” news, the kind you’d see before the stay-at-home restrictions – local shootings.
It’s crazy, I know, but this felt “normal.”
Yet “normal” and “not-normal” are looking the same. Pre-pandemic local news led with people dying by each others’ hands. Then it led with the daily death-by-illness. Now we’ve returned to death-by-other.
Death is news.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2017 there were 2.8 million deaths in the US (less than 1% of the population).
Number of deaths for leading causes of death:
Heart disease: 647,457
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404
Influenza and Pneumonia: 55,672
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis: 50,633
Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,173
By volume, that’s a lot of death. If we think about the death of animals, birds, insects, leaves on tress and such then death fairly surrounds us.
Pandemic death is different, of course, in that it is premature death and not of our own causing. We are supposed to die later due to one of the reasons on the CDC list. Yet the pandemic is a memento mori – a reminder of the inevitability of death.
In Muriel Sparks’ novel Memento Mori, the characters are aged and one of them then others receive telephone calls where the caller simply says, “Remember, you must die.”
In Spark fashion, we don’t learn the identity of the caller but get to peek into the lives of those that must die. Like us, they do this and that; even though we will die we continue with our likes and dislikes, habits and follies, hopes and regrets. Remembering that he will die doesn’t stop character Godfrey from a silly, titillating compulsion.
The year 2020 is a global memento mori courtesy of several planets in Capricorn, including Pluto, Saturn (which has moved into Aquarius but will be back in Capricorn in July), Jupiter and Mars. Uranus in Taurus helps a bit too by reminding us how easily our body and earth can be decayed or destroyed.
Saturn (which rules Capricorn) was once the “last” planet and is the symbolic end or limit. As such it is structure, form, rules and boundaries.
Years ago a man I met said he was going to be traveling to a dangerous place. When I inquired about his safety he replied something like this, “I’m not worried about dying. I know where I’m going.”
This is Saturn talking. The critical word in this sentence is “I.”
“I” is the form of our personality. If you examine the “I” it is always planning, wanting, thinking about next and creating stories about itself.
If we look to Saturn in the natal horoscope, we can see what we are “planning” for when life “ends.” Saturn in fire signs may see great spiritual awareness after death; Saturn in earth might be more practical applying life’s rules to the non-physical state; Saturn in air might view the non-physical as an abstract state of ideas and concepts; Saturn in water is more inclined to seek emotional connection and might focus on meeting up with loved ones.
Our Saturn interpretation is very important to us, very serious, which is why we create so much external discord in trying to defend it. Saturn also represents our shield and defenses which ultimately is our weakest link, the place where we are most intended to grow.
Some Saturn stories bestow rewards; some provide release from responsibility. Some engender new responsibilities. Some offer peace and rest.
Where’s your Saturn?
A memento mori not only reminds us that we will die, but it also reminds us that we are alive – if I have the Latin right it would be memento vitae.
If the horoscope, the sun, moon, Venus, and Mars are the personal preferences of the “I.” Jupiter and Saturn are where “I” connects to society with Saturn as the end, or the top of the mountain for those ambitious Capricorn and Saturn types. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are beyond the “I” and are the energies of awareness, connectedness and evolution – where “I” awakens, dissolves then merges.
Avoiding the memento mori is by polarity also avoiding the memento vitae. In the face of premature death, it’s a good time to remember we are alive. While we have an increased chance of dying which we’re working to decrease, it’s important to remember that for many, there’s also a strong chance of living.