Love in the Year of the Dog

February is the month of love and romance epitomized by Valentine’s Day.

It is also the beginning of the Chinese New Year, which this year falls on Feb. 16, two days after Valentine’s Day. In the Chinese lunar zodiac, 2018 is the Year of the Dog. (More specifically, since the Chinese zodiac also deals with colors and elements, it is the Year of the Brown Earth Dog, a call to action.) And what better symbol of unconditional love, loyalty and honesty could we have? We can feel the power of love in our daily lives and astrologists see it in the constellations.

Lads and Lassies, it’s your year to howl. Photograph by Marco Verch.

Ancient observers of the heavens first developed elaborate systems of casting horoscopes and predicting events, based on the movements of the sun, moon, stars and planets and their effects on human affairs and the natural world. Astrologists claim that people born in the Year of the Dog, for instance, contain many of the best traits of human nature. Like canines, dog people are said to be more concerned with the happiness of others than their own wealth or success. But they sometimes become so deeply involved in other people’s lives that they are perceived to be nosey. 

Astrology, like fortune-telling, clairvoyance and soothsaying, has been ridiculed by scientists and pragmatists for decades but respect for astrology is on the rise. Consulting the stars, via the internet, for answers concerning love and romance, propitious wedding dates and health issues have become quite trendy. I have friends who feel they must consult their horoscopes before stepping out the door in the morning. 

In an insightful article about astrology in The New York Times, Amanda Hess observed: “The ‘story’ the astrologists are telling us is now capable of unfolding at the pace of the internet. Twitter allows followers to push out updates that keep pace with the news, and AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning can churn out predictions at speeds unmatched by flesh and blood astrologers.”

Like Amanda Hess, I was born under the constellation Gemini, (May 21) which astrologists claim represents the sign of the Twins. Hess noted that her “curmudgeonly twin points out that astrology is fake.” My skeptical twin side also finds astrology “fake news.” But my easygoing twin advised me to download a new horoscope app. After soliciting some biographical details, the new app informed me: “You’re the chatterbox of the zodiac and are not afraid to speak your mind….This year you will have more energy, do more things and make dramatic changes in your life. Go with your gut.” I’m not going to be at variance with the cosmos. 

Paramours no longer have to travel to India or climb to remote monasteries in the Himalayans to search for “the truth” or advice about their love life. Internet gurus are available with a click. You can find Zodiac sign memes all over Twitter. The internet offers numerous astrology sites with myriad products. Some services are by subscription. Other popular free sites, such as cafeastrology.com, and Susan Miller’s Astrology Zone, have love-predicting oracles open for questions.

The author’s beloved dog, Wolf. Courtesy Audrey Ronning Topping.

Years ago I went hiking in Vietnam with the English novelist, Graham Greene, who was researching his 1955 novel “The Quiet American.” Together we visited an old Buddhist Temple in the hills near Hanoi. His conversion to Roman Catholicism found its way into such haunting novels as “The Power and The Glory,” and “The End of The Affair.” So I was surprised when Graham picked up the mallet and rang the gong to drive away the evil spirits. “Oh,“ I said: “I thought you were Catholic!” He replied: “I am, but there is no point in taking any chances.” 

Although many horoscope readers feel that astrology is fake, they are still curious enough to take a look — just in case. Astrology is becoming a commercial industry as well as an old-fashioned spiritual practice. The question arises: Why are we turning from traditional scientific methods and looking to the stars for unscientific guidance?  

Steph Koyfman, who started The Daily Hunch, tackled this issue with a tab on its website reading “Astrology is nonsense,” and explained, “Physics isn’t happy with the idea that planets are meddling in our love affairs, and confirmation bias keeps us from being dissuaded when horoscopes miss the mark.”

Horoscopes can also ruin your day. I say “Go with your gut.” Believe only what you want to believe (that is the good news).

Here’s wishing you only good forecasts in the Year of the Dog.

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