With Sagittarius rising in my birthchart, Mercury opposed Jupiter, and lots of planets in the 9th house, I can seem like a natural born centaur. This is especially true on the occasions when I jump on my high horse (so to speak) and start delivering sermons like a self-styled Joan of Arc.
I’m most apt to get Sag-ey when I sense someone else is being bullied or treated unfairly. It doesn’t have to be someone I particularly like, either. Mostly, I can justify those rants. But for every situation that really demands stark truth-telling, there’s one that calls for a little more restraint and judgment. At those moments, this piece of advice, attributed to Indian spiritual master Sai Baba, can be helpful:
Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve upon the silence?
Oh, self-righteousness can feel so good. Setting someone straight. Telling it like it is. Few things offer the delicious jolt of freedom, of agency, of utter indifference to consequence that comes with letting fly a self-righteous screed.
But even if what you say is true, and even if you can argue for its necessity, that kind of truth-telling is never kind and almost never improves upon the silence.
I’ve heard variations of the Sai Baba quotation many times over the years. The last part, the bit about improving upon the silence, is often left out. And that’s a shame… because when you begin to feel the thundering hooves of your inner Sagittarius begin to gallop, you’re not likely to care much whether something is kind or necessary, though you will certainly have convinced yourself that it’s true.
However, improving upon the silence is a concept that might actually curb Sagittarius’ tendency toward blurty truth-telling. This is because no sign worships as devoutly as Sagittarius in the cathedral of natural beauty. Towering mountains, mysterious sandstone arches, achingly beautiful forests… these are deeply moving to Sagittarius, particularly their magical silence.
The next time you feel the itch to really let loose and try to convince someone that you’re by-God right about something, try for a moment to close your eyes and pretend you’re in some beautiful natural spot that’s sacred to you. Put yourself in the silence. Wait awhile. You may find, to your surprise, that the real truth that needs to be told is a little different than you’d imagined. Sometimes, it’s not a truth about someone else at all, but rather about yourself— something you’re a little ashamed of, embarrassed by, and have been only dimly aware of. Let the silence stretch on, holding your truth gently aloft. Could your words improve this moment, this silence?
There are words, of course, that greatly improve the silence. Like Martin Luther King declaring in huge, thrilling tones that “the greatness of America is the right to protest for right,” and “I have been to the mountaintop,” and “I have a dream.” Or Bob Dylan’s keening wail: “How does it feel to be on your own, like a complete unknown, with no direction home.” Or John Kennedy’s famous, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Oh, friends, rhetoric and poetry can improve exquisitely upon silence; let’s not lose their lyrical power, which tells important truths so much more convincingly than mere hollering. Truth shouldn’t be something we use to shame one another, but rather a way of revealing us more completely so that we can better love one another.
This Full Moon (June 14, 2022, 4:52 am PDT) comes at a desperately trying, heartbreaking, infuriating time. But its degree, 23º25′, is on the Sabian Symbol 24 Sagittarius, A bluebird standing at the door of the house, and is also square Neptune in Pisces. Anger is justified, but love is necessary—the love that says, “I think you’re completely wrong about what you believe, and you do stuff that makes me really, really, angry, but dammit, you’re my brother/sister and I love your humanity!” And when you’re looking around you to total up the hypocrisies and dishonesties that need to be called out, remember to first look inside yourself for frailties. Then, if you find you still have something to say that’s big and truthful and heart-opening, open up your throat and sing out loud and strong, with love and without judgment. Make your truth as beautiful as you can. Improve the silence.
© 2016-2022 April Elliott Kent