A classic Twilight Zone episode tells the story of seemingly benign aliens who have come to earth and pledged their help to mankind. Indeed, one of their seminal texts is entitled “To Serve Man.” Imagine the dismayed surprise of the humanoids who, having clasped these aliens to their bosoms, belatedly discover that the book is not a paean to intergalactic relations, as they’d imagined–but a cookbook!
It’s a clever twist on not just the word, but the concept of service, which in astrology is most often associated with Virgo. The sign of work, of diligent care on behalf of others, nevertheless has a rather nasty reputation–not entirely undeserved–for its hypercritical shadow side. Interestingly, the slang expression “you’ve been served” is a taunt that declares you’ve been called out and shown up. And certainly, if you get on a Virgo’s bad side you may feel as though you’ve “been served”–or, in the case of those crafty aliens, as though you’re about to be served up!
But Virgo also symbolizes the very noble impulse toward usefulness. It represents the hundreds of people who impact your daily life. No matter how menial the task, another’s approach to his work can have a profound influence on the quality of your day. The barista who serves up your morning coffee can set the day’s tone with a smile and a little joke or can seemingly go out of his way to piss you off. A mechanic who’s having a bad day might forget an important step in servicing your car’s brakes–and that could influence the rest of your life.
I’ll bet it’s easier for you to think of half a dozen people who’ve recently given you poor service than it is to name even half as many who’ve offered help with a smile. Why does it seem so many people are unhappy in their work? Apart from things like sustenance wages and job insecurity, I think it’s mainly for two reasons.
First, it’s because their work doesn’t connect them to the spiritual underpinnings of their lives. The difference between pitching in to wash dishes after a charity pancake breakfast, and washing dishes at a minimum wage job, is that one feels like a contribution to society and the other usually doesn’t. No one likes to feel as though she’s wasting her life. I would argue that no task is demeaning if you’re doing it for a meaningful cause. Any task done over and over, day in and day out can get boring. But washing dishes for my family every day, while it can get dull, never feels demeaning, because it’s a contribution I’m making to my home.
But the other reason for disgruntled workers is a little more subtle. One of the most important transits of this year brings together Jupiter in Sagittarius and Neptune in Pisces, a powerful combination that excites the imagination toward big dreams for a new and more inspiring world. But while dreaming of a beautiful world is all well and good, someone has to be willing to roll up their sleeves and make the dreams a reality. Behind every great achievement is some diligent helper wearing sensible shoes and a headset, supervising logistics from the wings. Where would we be without good, patient, Virgo-like souls with a knack for untangling messes, who can get the printer to work and troubleshoot the problem with the wireless network?
Unfortunately, while every family, every workplace, and every cause needs such people, they often don’t appreciate them. All too often, the tendency is to take them for granted, to notice them only when something has gone wrong, and to ignore their sensible warnings about system backups until the computer has crashed and taken with it all of our artwork. We think we can get away with it, because they are such nice people, so helpful, so patient. We splash around in the waters of creativity and big, important undertakings, secure in the knowledge that if we get in over our heads, some kindly lifeguard type will rescue us. And generally, they do. That’s how they’re built.
Until one day, they’ve had about enough. The long-suffering grade school Room Mother receives an early morning phone call from a More Important Parent with no time to bake cookies; surely Long-Suffering Room Mother can do it for her! The overworked IT guy, feverishly attending to the needs of thirty staff members and sixty temperamental machines, gets an impromptu visit from his supervisor, who needs help–urgently!–with her personal email account. The long-suffering astrologer, whose wages barely place him above the national poverty line, gets yet another epic email from someone detailing every problem in her life and insisting the astrologer read her chart for free, because hers is such a worthy and exceptional cause.
And suddenly, the Virgo volcano erupts. Like all earth signs, Virgo has a long fuse… which makes its eventual meltdowns all the more impressive and kind of scary. And because Virgo is ruled by Mercury, he or she can carve you up with an estimable blend of withering sarcasm and impressive vocabulary choices.
And then, of course, it’s Virgo– the unappreciated, overworked, underpaid gaffer on the set of everybody else’s big-budget motion picture–who is the bad guy. And if you’ve ever done a favor that went unacknowledged or picked up the slack for someone who took advantage of your kindness, that “Virgo” has been you. Is it any wonder so few of us are willing to go the extra mile to help another person?
At this Full Moon in Virgo, by all means indulge the desire to dream big, idealistic dreams. These are the visions that move us forward as a civilization. But remember that the millions of people who perform society’s less glamorous tasks, who work hard to develop valuable skills, and who patiently midwife our dreams with push-brooms, wrenches, an editing pencil, and computer code, deserve our appreciation and respect.
So, take a Virgo to lunch. Thank your kid’s teachers. And if an alien tries to coax you into a large, simmering pot of water, just say no.