Most of us don’t remember learning to speak in our native language. We may not recall, exactly, how we picked up reading and writing, tying our shoes, or riding a bike. Somewhere along the way we learned other skills, too, like how to get a library card, put on makeup, drive a car, flirt. Some of these we learned from brothers and sisters, some from neighbors and classmates, some from books. These days, we can learn the rudiments of everything from astrology to baking bread just by watching YouTube videos.
When astrologers describe Gemini as the sign of “lower learning,” we’re not talking about shooting craps or grifting (at least, not usually). We’re talking about the basic skills and knowledge we master in school prior to university, and about the colloquial learning that we pick up for fun or for survival.
For instance, in grade school we learned basic math, how to write a composition, and how to locate America on a map. But we also mastered other, arguably more important skills, like how to make friends, deflect bullying, and stay on the teacher’s good side. In high school, you might have picked up a little science and more advanced math, but what about outside the classroom? If you needed extra money to buy a car, you might babysit your neighbor’s children or work at a taco stand, jobs with minimal training. You had to figure out for yourself how to keep the little savages in your charge from burning down the house, or how to shove tacos into bags while simultaneously taking orders and making change.
You don’t go to school for this kind of thing. Through necessity or interest, you use your native ingenuity to figure it out on your own.
I was born with the Moon in Gemini. At the age of twelve, I became enthralled with music. I taught myself to play guitar by picking away at obscure folk songs from the Mel Bay songbook. I learned to sing by spending hours and hours singing along with records by fabulous women singers. I picked up a few guitar tricks from friends, but mostly, I learned through listening – and practice, practice, practice.
Without discipline, Gemini skills remain rudimentary. With a little bit of Virgo’s perfectionism, though, we can develop a much higher level of proficiency. In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that mastery of a skill requires 10,000 hours of practice. The idea is an intriguing one, if only because we’d all love to think that we’re only 10,000 hours of intentional practice from proficiency at something, whether a second language, computer programming, or playing the drums.
But not all 10,000 hours are created equal. I remember something my astute high school music director told our vocal jazz group one day when we were slacking off during rehearsal. “What you’re doing right now,” he scolded us, “is practicing being bad.” The lesson: Practice, at each moment, as you wish to perform later on.
But even practice is not enough. Gemini’s opposite sign, Sagittarius, evaluates us based on the methods and theories developed by others and proven useful over time. This is the moment when we submit our skills for scrutiny – the astrology student demonstrates her chart interpretation skills to her teacher, the vocalist auditions for a producer, or the writer submits work for publication.
Yet, even that isn’t enough. Because what can’t be taught by mimicry, practice, or philosophy is the intangible gift of spirit. A young girl might learn to perfectly mimic Taylor Swift, practice her songs for 10,000 hours, and perform and face judgment on The Voice. None of that makes her an artist. For that, she has to go deep, away from the spotlight, into the realm of vulnerability and imagination. Pisces-like, she has to learn to let music reveal her soul.
This New Moon in Gemini squares Neptune in Pisces, at two lyrical Sabian Symbol degrees: 13 Gemini, A great musician at his piano, and 19 Pisces, A master instructing his disciple. These square Jupiter at 21 Sagittarius, on the Sabian degree A child and a dog with borrowed glasses. To be a great musician – a great anything – requires all the steps of Gemini ingenuity, Virgo diligence, and the willingness to look at things with different eyes, like Sagittarius; but it also requires that we sit at the feet of the master, to receive Pisces’ spiritual wisdom.
What we can learn from Gemini is the importance of following the path of curiosity, because the path to mastery begins with a single spark of interest. Gemini asks: What interests you enough to practice it for 10,000 hours? To submit yourself to evaluation and judgement? To bring to it the full engagement of your soul?
Each day, we’re practicing. We may think we’re only practicing doing a job, folding laundry, or creating social media posts. But there are no wasted moments as we make our way along the path toward spiritual mastery. We can practice doing it well, or we can practice being bad at it. The choice is ours.