Libra – Search for Other

Libra

Libra is the month of marriage, partnership, sharing, and giving. Libra is the 7th sign of the zodiac and the 7th house of marriage in astrology. Libras strive for balance, idolize harmony, dislike discord, and hate confrontation. They’re the best negotiators of all types. Famous for having a hard time deciding where and what to eat or what to wear, Libras can be very decisive when it really matters. Most Libras prefer to be frank and direct, but haven’t figured out how to be liked for it. Even when they’re aggressive, indirect, or vague, they manage to get their way. Many tread the thin line between ethics and honesty. Maybe they know something important that could kill a deal or make a task harder for themselves, but fail to mention it. Some Libras serve their clients by wielding logic, tact, and diplomacy like Samurai Swordsmen. Athena’s mighty sword is brandished with icy detachment. Legal, political, publishing, marketing, public relations, higher education, and entertainment fields are burgeoning with Libra types.

Libra HandAll Thinking types have square palms and long fingers. Many Libras have long straight unobstructed headlines that fork at their end near the percussion of the hand. They see every side of a situation. Straight and strong long pinkie fingers enhance communication. Dominant bottom and middle phalanges are favorable for commerce, banking, and real estate, while a long top phalanx is better for public speaking, journalism, and law. Blended with strong index fingers, you’ve got ambitious hardworking managers and powerful leaders. A wide separation between head and life lines increases personal initiative and spontaneity and reveals its owner really doesn’t care what others think of them. Some Libras are blinded by their desire and need to get their way. Trying to change a Libra’s mind is like playing mental monopoly. Be direct and make good sense.

Most healthy Libra types have strong handshakes and firm pink elastic skin. Long graceful heart lines extend from under the pinkie to the base of the index finger, symbolizing sentimentality and romance. Vertical lines on the ball of the thumb within the life line are soul commitments to family and friends. Libras are idealistic, romantic, and refined. Aesthetics are important to them. You’ll see Libra business types in chic designer clothing taking clients out to trendy restaurants.

AthenaAthena is my favorite Libra archetype. Greek Goddess of Wisdom and Justice, Athena rules the strategic thinking required in battle. Heroes like Odysseus (Libra) and Achilles (Aries) worshiped her. Often pictured as a handsome Goddess in battle armor, Athena holds a shield (Intuition) in one hand and a sword or spear (Thinking) in the other. She discards emotion to think with crystal clarity. In Libra, Athena holds the scales of justice and has an owl (Wisdom) on her shoulder. Real palmistry story about my relationship with an Athena type who I call ‘Athen’.

 

As a Libra, Truman Capote innately understood how easy it is to manipulate truth and the legal system. “Even an attorney of moderate talent can postpone doomsday year after year, for the system of appeals that pervades American jurisprudence amounts to a legalistic wheel of fortune, a game of chance, somewhat fixed in favor of the criminal, that the participants play interminably.” In Cold Blood

Gore Vidal said, “Truman Capote made lying an art…”

Scott             Lisa

Scott is a Cardinal Thinking type. His Sun, Moon, Mars, and Jupiter are in the sign of Libra. That’s a lot of Libra. Scott has Scorpio rising and three planets in Scorpio. That’s a lot of fixity in the Feeling department. Scott is head ruled, but soft hearted. Much of his emotional growth can be attributed to his partner Lisa, who is a Cardinal Feeling type. Her Sun, Venus, and Uranus are in Cancer. She’s heart ruled, but also a strategic thinker. She has to in order to partner well with Scott. Scott and Lisa balance each other beautifully. Scott’s strong, firm, hardworking hands have designed and built sustainable housing, planted and tended bountiful gardens, and nourished community. Scott is also a Tai Chi master, baker, musician, song writer, and friend. www.pompanuck.org.

susan alancraigSusan was born on the same day and year as Scott. She has the same planets at the same degrees. You’d think their hands would be very similar, but they’re very different. Susan has Capricorn (Cardinal) rising. Observe the separation between her head and life line. Susan has long index fingers. She’s ambitious, but in a very different way than Scott. Notice how the fingers on her right (dominant) hand lean towards the index finger. As a giver, she has traversed much of the Third World with her loving partner Orin, helping less fortunate people have better lives. Her communication and language skills are refined. Susan sings in a chorale, her wonderful voice her instrument. She’s a great documentary photographer (all my website photos), gardener, musician, and friend.

Cousin RichieMy Cousin Richie, Libra extraordinaire, philosopher, sculptor, and inventor; created Tangle, The Infinite Sculpture (designer series of interactive, interlocking, plastic elbows). Our mothers were sisters. We share the ancestral “happiness”, and “seeker” genes. I once said to Richie, “If you put the same religious fervor into saving the world as you have into plastic elbows, we’d be saved”. He replied, “I am saving the world, one Tangle at a time” He meant it.

Dalai LamaRichie has sold tens of millions of Tangles worldwide. I ran into a mutual friend on the streets of NYC who said he visited a monastery in Tibet and saw a picture of the Dalai Lama with a chrome Tangle in his lap. I wasn’t surprised. When I visited Richie at his gift show booth in NYC, he was talking with a very conservative buyer from Wal-Mart. I leaned closer to overhear what he was saying, “Let me show you the only product in this show worth more than money”.

 

The hardest task in reading hands is learning to judge hands. One person’s long, rectangular, and firm assessment can be another’s short, square, and soft appraisal. Rigorous practice is necessary to learn to observe and judge hands. Few of us are pure types. You may look at Cousin Richie’s fingers and see them as too short for a thinking type. I admit that if I didn’t know Richie, I may have seen his fingers differently, but the opposition in his symbolism is very powerful. Knowing Richie’s astrology and behavior has influenced how I see his hands. Dominant Libra opposes Aries as autumn opposes spring. Odysseus’s strategy fanned the flames of Jason’s passion on his quest for the Golden Fleece. Astute planning still fans the flames of passion in the 21st Century.

GaryMy brother Gary has a Pisces sun, a mutable feeling type. With Libra hands, he behaves more like a cardinal thinking type. Gary is a geriatric psychiatrist. I threatened to become one of his craziest patients, but then as a Gemini, I decided not to get old. Gary’s Libra temperament gracefully deals with the most stressful situations. Pisces gives Gary the ability to have a natural empathy and intuition that many Libras lack. Gary is a great psychiatrist, husband, father, brother, son, and friend.

Heart line touching head lineYou don’t have to be an expert palmist to see certain truths in hands. When the end of a heart line dips down to touch the beginning of a headline, it’s unlikely a person will verbalize their deeper feelings, especially negative emotions. A rational mind controls a very impressionable heart. Add a short index finger and that will wreak havoc on a person’s self-esteem. It makes trying to offer advice to anyone with that combination a challenge for someone who wants to help. When you discuss personal history, you may learn a parent was emotionally or physically absent during the person’s formative years.

Mohandas GandhiOne highly principled Libra was Mohandas Gandhi, lawyer, political, spiritual leader, and civil rights champion in early twentieth century India. He promoted non-violent disobedience and began India’s freedom movement. Gandhi must have had huge empathy and unshakable conviction to overcome the inertia of his short index fingers. Dennis Kucinich, a Libra, and a long shot in the 2004 presidential campaign, promised to make non-violence a priority by establishing a “Department of Peace”. Russian president Vladimir Putin is a Libra. He was nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Bruce Springstein “The Boss”, has captivated masses for 30+ years with his charisma. John Lennon and Jim Henson were also Libras who mesmerized masses of followers. “Imagine there’s no country, / It isn’t hard to do. / Nothing to kill or die for, / And no religion, too. / Imagine all the people / Living life in peace”  John Lennon (1940-1980)

SleepingBeautySleeping Beauty symbolizes the search for self through other. Prince Charming (Aries) rescues SB from her hundred year sleep. He bestows a magic kiss that enables her to awaken and they ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after. Many Libras have unrealistic expectations of relationships that end up disappointing them in reality. I remind them that there are many more frogs and beasts than princes. Libras want to be married. A marriage license may be a legally binding contract, but it doesn’t guarantee love.

Winnie the PoohWinnie the Pooh (Libra) tries to find balance in his life by reasoning “think, think, think”. He always manages to get a pot full of honey for himself. Christopher Robin (Aquarius) knows what’s best for everyone. Winnie lives in the hundred-acre wood with his friends, Piglet (Gemini), Rabbit (Virgo), Roo (Saggitarius), Tigger (Leo), and Eeyore (Capricorn).

Everyone has Libra, Venus, and a 7th house in their astrological symbolism. Deep down, we know what’s honest, true, and fair. Most of us have ethical and moral values and boundaries. We also know right from wrong and fear the consequences of our betrayals. It’s too easy to analyze, rationalize, and compartmentalize our bad habits and behaviors. “Laws keep honest people honest”, “Locks keep honest people out”, and “Contracts are only as good as the people who sign them” are aphorisms that describe Libra.

Tales of Cindy and Ella – Two Faces of Virgo

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”  Stephen King (9/21/47 – Virgo)

Virgo - Cindy

You don’t have to be a Virgo (8/23–9/22) to have dominant Virgo symbolism embedded in your psyche. Where the sun was when you were born does not define your character. Palmistry and astrology share the same western mythological archetypes and the same dysfunctional families and relationships – and how they live on in our psyches and lives.

As one of twelve basic archetypes, Virgo is best when discriminating, reliable, modest, and orderly service is required. Ego gratification is not a primary motivation for Virgos, however, it’s important to value and appreciate them. They often don’t ask enough for themselves, but they do know what they’re worth and want to be appreciated and rewarded accordingly. Virgo hands have square palms and short fingers. They tend to be less meaty and more flexible at the joints than Taurus types. In Capricorn types, the top knot on the fingers is often more well developed. Add well-developed second knots, square fingertips, and short fingernails to any archetype, you get more Virgo qualities. Virgos are reputed for cleaning up everyone else’s messes. Some are overly critical and meticulous. If you bite your fingernails, you’re probably critical, no matter your type.

Most short fingered people tend to see the whole picture and dislike details. Virgo types; however, are pragmatic about details and facts. They just plain do what needs to be done. They sometimes lack breadth and long-range vision. Virgos must work hard to feel useful and they need to cherish every inch of what they earn. Virgo rules healthcare.  Accounting, medical, nursing, social work, health food, maintenance, and cleaning professions are magnets for Virgos. Some Virgos worry too much about their personal health.

Cinderella is incarnate in millions of women. She’s a Virgo archetype who faithfully swept the cinders, scrubbed the floors, made the beds, and served the meals to her evil stepmother and stepsisters. Cinderella dutifully served her family while they treated her like shit. Cinderella’s fairy godmother came along and provided the magical coach, gown, and glass slippers that helped Cinderella capture the heart of the Prince. At the stroke of midnight, Cinderella had to run away before turning back to rags. The Prince searched for Cinderella and finally found her. The glass slipper fit perfectly and they lived happily ever after. Many Cinderella types have been kissed by frogs and beasts. Few have been saved by Princes.

The following is a tale of a true life Cinderella and how her virtue overcame her evil nurture. I can confidently say that no scientific palmist who I know would ever have predicted what actually happened in Cindy’s life from her hands. Cindy was born with a pure and virtuous spirit. That made the devil mad. He worked hard to erode Cindy’s trust, promote her fear, and take away her hope. It’s hard to believe he didn’t succeed.

When I met Cindy, I was anxiously searching for someone to rent a home from my friends who were in the Peace Corp. I was responsible for their idiosyncratic house and finicky cat, which needed constant attention. I’d advertised for a tenant, but hadn’t found anyone suitable. Cindy showed up by referral at the eleventh hour. She seemed careworn to me, with missing teeth and weathered skin. The tip of a large vertical scar traveled downward from the top of her breastplate, but Cindy had an inner radiance that shown brightly. The sparkle in her eyes and the pride in her step made me confident she was right for the job.

Cindy consented to let me examine her hands. She’s a Virgo with Virgo hands (above). The number 6 in the image relates to the 6th house of work and health of the horoscope. Her square palms and short straight fingers were much healthier than I had anticipated. They were strong and firm and her skin was elastic with a healthy pink color. It was instantly clear to me that she was honest and hardworking and had no problem taking responsibility. Over the many years I’ve know Cindy, I’ve grown to admire and respect her more each day and to deeply cherish our friendship.

Cindy is a real life Cinderella. Cindy’s higher nature overcame her evil nurture. She was born to an alcoholic drug addicted prostitute who didn’t want her. Her first memory at age one was of her mother crying out in pain while strange men were beating her up. She remembers ashtrays full of stale cigarette butts that would be re-lit again and again until every last drop of nicotine was gone. Cindy’s mother routinely screamed at her and punished her for “stealing her cigarettes” when the pack was empty. When Cindy was two, she was playing by the stove. Her mother grabbed a red hot cast iron frying pan and pressed it against her innocent little hand to teach Cindy a lesson about playing near a hot stove. She still has the scar that makes that lesson hard to forget.

Cindy doesn’t remember much about her father. She knows he spent most of her formative years in prison. He was occasionally granted leave to visit his family. He began abusing Cindy sexually from the time she was 1 ½ years old. When she had begun to speak, she remembers walking into a bathroom while he was peeing. He yelled at her and lectured her about privacy and morals. Cindy didn’t get it. She had already seen, touched, and tasted his penis. Cindy had an adult cousin who was married. When he’d come over to visit with his child, he’d take Cindy into the bathroom, shove his hard penis into her mouth, then wash her mouth out with soap when he was finished because she did such a dirty thing.  She hated him.

Cindy’s mother habitually left her with strangers. Cindy had a brother who was five years older. When he was two, his mother left him in a carriage on the streets for two whole days. Cindy’s mother’s mother found him and took him to live in the “dark dank cave” she and her husband called home. He grew up with those grandparents. Cindy recalls that he was compassionate and caring towards her, though she rarely saw him. He took her to see horror movies on several occasions. One of Cindy’s most vivid and positive early memories is of the smell of a neighbor’s fried pork chops, creamed corn, mashed potatoes, and homemade applesauce. Cindy was malnourished and her kind-hearted neighbor fed her when she could.

Once in a while, Cindy’s mother would drop her off at the local Catholic Church where the nuns were very nice to her. Like her fairy godmothers, they cleaned her up, gave her new clothes, and a doll. She couldn’t believe that anyone could be so nice to her. Cindy’s mother hardly recognized her when she came to pick her up. When they arrived home, she told Cindy that she was still worthless and that one day, she’d end up as a skinny little whore in a gutter. Everyone, including Cindy, thought she was probably right. Cindy fantasized about becoming a nun, but even as a young child, she already knew that she was not a virgin, nor was she baptized in the family church. She believed that she would remain in LIMBO until she’d eventually rot in HELL.

Cindy ran away. A sixteen year old girl who lived nearby took Cindy in. Cindy hid in a closet in her room for a month before this girl’s bizarre mother found out. Her mother was angry, but somehow managed to arrange with social services to get paid for Cindy’s care. Cindy didn’t get much actual caring, but at least she had a roof over her head for a while. When her foster mother threw her out, Cindy found a second foster home and lived there for a few weeks. She arrived home from school one day to find all of her stuff out on the sidewalk. Her evil foster mother, regretting the loss of her stipend, had spread nasty rumors about Cindy and got her back.

At nine years old, Cindy fainted and was dumped on the steps of the hospital. They discovered that she had a serious congenital heart problem because of her mother’s substance abuse during pregnancy. Cindy was forced to remain in the hospital for a year, mainly because no one wanted a homeless kid with serious heart problems. The doctors and social workers fell in love with Cindy, but there was not much they could do short of adopting her and no one did. Cindy has had three major heart operations at ages 14, 24, and 42.

Cindy actually had a happy foster care experience for nine whole months. It was difficult at first, because Cindy didn’t know how to respond to kindness. She hid in her room. This foster family treated her like a real human being and actually wanted to know her. They taught Cindy to sew and work with wood. Cindy began to respond well to their kindness, but her evil foster mother lied once again to social services and eventually Cindy was back with her. This sick bitch cut off all of Cindy’s long beautiful natural red hair to punish her. Cindy didn’t feel loved, but she did have some remote sense of stability and security as long as a social service was paying for her. She bonded with a stepbrother at that time and still maintains a positive relationship with him, although he’s a redneck.

As long as her evil foster mother was getting her check she didn’t care what Cindy did. At fourteen, Cindy went off to live in her own apartment that she paid for by doing factory day work for Manpower. She tried to get an education at the same time, but it was impossible. When social services came looking for Cindy, her foster mother had to track her down to get her back. She informed Cindy’s landlord that he was renting to an underage prostitute who was using his place for business. Cindy once again found her stuff in the hallway and locks changed, though she had paid a month’s rent in advance.

Cindy’s heart gave out. She ended up back in the hospital, having her first major open heart surgery. Three weeks later, Cindy was forced to go back to her foster home, only to be thrown out again. In a state of hopeless desperation, Cindy asked one of the men whom she had met at Manpower if she could stay with him. He was arrogant and physically aggressive towards her, but she decided to put up with him, since she didn’t know what else to do. She tried to physically distance herself from him, but eventually he got her pregnant and she had her first child at age sixteen. Meanwhile, he was becoming more and more abusive – beating her up and slamming her hand in a door to punish her for not being a worthy servant. Cindy lasted for two years – long enough for her to get pregnant again.

While Cindy was pregnant for the second time, she unexpectedly received a letter out of the blue from her father that contained a month old front-page newspaper clipping about how her brother had been brutally shot and killed. Reading about her brother threw Cindy onto an emotional roller coaster. He was a kind and caring person who worked so hard to rise above his circumstances, only to be violently murdered. He had gotten himself educated and was working in a nursing home. Cindy’s partner scolded and punished Cindy for mourning. “You hardly knew him”, he complained. He wanted nothing to interfere with his clean house and hot food which had to be served in a timely fashion.

Cindy ran away with her two girls and found her own place. She lived in poverty, but Cindy was extremely resourceful, growing much of her own food, chopping her own firewood, fixing her home, and sewing clothes for herself and her children. She worked odd jobs like cleaning other people’s homes, care taking, and painting. Cindy managed to create the best life she could for her kids. She was deeply committed to caring for them and giving them a good education.

Cindy attributes having children to saving herself. She rose with grace, strength, and wisdom to her challenges and responsibilities with a soul full of love and dedication. Cindy did a remarkable job. Her kids have endured their own relationship challenges and become strong healthy women with their own families. Cindy has five grand children who adore her. When I interviewed Cindy for this article, she was working as a tech person in a hospital; drawing blood, wiping butts, and cleaning bedpans with dignity. The patients were blessed to have her. Cindy’s long term plan was to earn a nursing degree and pay for her grandkid’s college educations.

As I listened to Cindy’s story, I felt an uncontrollable rage rising in me. How could so many people be so sick? I imagined horrible ways of getting revenge on the monsters who abused Cindy. She was in a different place, however, having forgiven everyone who had ever hurt her. “I feel sad and sorry for them”, she told me. Cindy hasn’t found her prince yet, but when she does, he will be one of the luckiest men in the world.

I once had a girlfriend who was a Virgo with fine skinned Virgo hands. I’ll call her Ella. I arrived as Ella’s prince, but departed as her persecutor. Ella frequented a cafe’ in Soho every morning at a certain time and sat in a certain seat. She’d peacefully sip coffee and write in her journal. This cafe had excellent coffee and pastries that were served by attractive hip young waiters and waitresses in a rustic natural décor. I stopped by for coffee a couple of times a week. Ella and I would nod and acknowledge each other.

One morning, Ella asked me if I’d like to join her at her table. She was healthy looking and attractive in an earthy way. She had long very dark silky hair, large sensitive eyes, a rosy complexion, full pink lips, and shapely hips. I could see from her square palms and short squarish fingers that she was a practical type. Her conical finger tips informed me of her intuitive and aesthetic side. Her knotty finger joints and short nails clued me to Virgo qualities. She was addicted to order and routine. I knew that Gemini (me) with Virgo (Ella) was like Peter Pan with Wendy. I could hardly believe how incompatible Ella and I would become as we got to know each other.

Ella set her sights on me. I don’t think I ever had a woman pursue me so relentlessly before. It was too late before I realized our relationship had no future. Gemini types prefer to flit from flower to flower like a butterfly. Obligation, responsibility, and guilt are like bad tasting medicine. Ella would call, “I was thinking of you while I was shopping today and purchased a beautiful piece of tuna big enough for the two of us. Would you like to come over to my apartment for dinner?” Her timing was impeccable. I’d be on the verge of forking down Chunk Light, straight from the can.

Ella set a beautiful table with perfectly matching tableware, flowers, candlelight, and soft music. Her home was spotless and she always smelled freshly showered. She was smart, sensual, and amazingly patient. Resistance was futile. At first, I’d eat and run. Ella offered to massage me. In hindsight, that was the beginning of the end.

I began sleeping over regularly. It was like being a kid again, only better. Ella worked so hard to please me. I rationalized – if she wants to, why not? Peter Pan needed Wendy to darn his socks and sew his shadow back on. If Ella wanted more than I was capable of, I’d just have to fly back to Neverland. Ella and I were literally too much like Peter and Wendy and just as destined to eventually part ways.

It wasn’t until I moved into Ella’s apartment that I realized the consequences of my choice and actions. While Virgo loves consistency, reliability, and dependability, Gemini hates being restricted and confined. Ella knew that, but secretly hoped that I’d change. She adapted as much as she could to my needs as she worked hard to try to change me. I did need more structure in my life, but I felt like I was sacrificing a huge chunk of my freedom in exchange for that structure. Ella provided a positive framework. She’d gently wake me at 7:30 am, having already quietly stretched for an hour, cleaned the house, organized, showered, and set a beautiful breakfast on an elegant table awaiting my arrival. At first, I thought, ‘this is too good to be true’. Our relationship felt incestuous. Ella was more like my mother or sister, than my lover. It was easy to please Ella, which added fuel to her desire to love and nourish me.

I marveled at Ella’s discipline, structure, and focus, however, I began resenting her routines as I realized that they were directing my life. I had an idyllic situation and yet I was feeling trapped. If only I were a Capricorn or a Taurus, I’d have thought that I was Adam with Eve in Eden. Ella would look at her watch and say “It’s time to make love now if you’d like”. I began feeling shame and guilt for not being able to love Ella as she wanted me to.

‘Am I insane?’, I thought.  Ella loves me. She even accepts my unpredictability and unconventionality, while I’m resenting her lack of spontaneity and secretly strategizing my getaway. She’d have been better off with another practical or feeling type, instead of a thinking type. I finally faced the handwriting on the wall, deeply wounding Ella when I announced, “I need to breathe”. We shed a lot of tears together for different reasons. I slinked away with bowed head, a sad heart, and a deep sense of relief.

My Road to Redemption

Your Life is in Your Hands copy

‘LIFE IS HARD AND THEN YOU DIE’

It’s not easy to let go of old habits. It’s even harder to stay with the wrong habits for the wrong reasons. One advantage for me of being an ‘adaptable’ thinking type is that I can go with the flow. Major catastrophes in my life have had corresponding compensations. Being constantly forced to change my thinking and circumstances has illuminated my path to knowledge and wisdom and has also been my price for humility.

David and I had launched our custom furniture business wearing rose colored glasses. Overly-ambitious, under-capitalized, and with an abundance of talent and energy, we were ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, we failed to acknowledge the literal handwriting on our wall. We had recently signed the lease for a new work space, which we thought was absolutely perfect for us because of its fabulous location in NOHO, reasonable rent, and an electrical system that was already set up perfectly for our needs. We realized when we moved in, however, that the previous lessor of the space (a furniture maker) had painted his final message (above) in black enamel paint with a four-inch brush on the largest white surface in the shop. He died there alone, miserable, and suffering with lung cancer while tortuously fulfilling his final work obligations.

David and I were concerned about the implications of his message for our business. How could we exorcise his dark karma from our work space? We white washed over it several times, but somehow it managed to migrate through to the surface again and again. Then we installed a layer of sheetrock over it. Like placing a Band-Aid on a compound fracture, our repair made the new sheetrock a constant reminder of the tumultuous trials we were going through and how they were linked to the negative karmic energy that it concealed. As our business failed, it wasn’t the loss of money and credibility that was most painful for me. I’d experienced that before in my candle business. Someone who I loved was in desperate trouble and I felt helpless.

Just prior to the all too proverbial ‘shit hitting the fan’, David asked me to share “the most amazing experience of his life”. I had no idea what he was talking about or what kind of trouble he was in. He inspired me to take a toke of Crack and I did. I felt godlike for a moment, and then had the scariest headache of my life. I instantly acquired empathy for people who get migraines and swore off Crack for all eternity.

David never got the headache. He craved that first godlike experience with every desperate attempt to re-experience it. He became crazy for Crack and cursed by his addiction. He’d call me for money in the middle of the night, knowing that would make me even angrier at him and more miserable about my own career choices. I urgently wanted to help David, but I also needed to help myself and my family.

Design, management, and marketing were my turf. David had been in charge of production. He was an intuitive type and great at it. With his strong, healthy, and creative hands, he could craft or fix anything. Suddenly, I was doing it all. Our workers needed guidance to fulfill the work required to complete our production deadlines. I hadn’t had much actual experience being a foreman, furniture maker, or maintenance man. I was also inexperienced with creating jigs to help expedite production. David could effortlessly tell by the sounds in the shop if and when there was a problem.

Our landlord, suppliers, and clients were upset with us (an understatement). I was struggling to meet basic responsibilities and obligations. These circumstances made me bonkers and also attracted the corresponding compensations for this insanity into my life. The most valuable lesson I learned was – I didn’t have to go through this experience alone. Aside from Joanna, my family, and my close friends who are always there for me, I needed people who could help me manage my reality. I was blessed to find two.

Angelo KeithAngelo Keith rescued me in my time of need. He had been a friend of the former shop owner, having worked for him as a furniture maker. Angelo helped his friend die with as much grace and dignity as humanly possible.

 

Angelo heard about our (my) dilemma and showed up at the eleventh hour, asking me to put him to work. He had many of David’s skills and then some. Much older, wiser, and more experienced, he’d quip, “Jesus was a woodworker”. When you need character building experience resulting in eventual martyrdom or sainthood, be a woodworker. Angelo never mentioned financial remuneration, which was beyond total disaster. I’ll always treasure him for that. Joanna and I came to love his family, too.

Angelo was like a one-man shop. He was as strong as an ox and as clever as a fox. He’d design jigs for doing tasks that never even occurred to me. He could lift a whole large upper cabinet with one hand and screw it to the wall with the other. I used to affectionately call him “Sumo”, short for Japanese wrestler. His hands were thinking type, like mine, with square palms and fairly long widely spread fingers. His palms were much thicker than mine and harder with tougher more calloused skin. Angelo had a strong ‘practical’ backup and was much more physical than me. Meanwhile, he had a first class mind. We’d walk in the woods together and blue-sky think in order to solve real problems. We’d construct unusual sculptures out of sticks and stones along the way. As a friend ‘in need’, I learned a lot from Angelo who was a friend ‘in deed’.

Glass, Metal, and Tabletop by Angelo Keith

Glass, Metal Work, and Tabletop by Angelo Keith

Angelo helped me cope with my challenges on the outside. I also needed help with my challenges on the inside. I decided to find the right psychotherapist to help me sort out my issues. I researched Freudians, Jungians, Reichians, and Adlerians. I eventually chose a Gestalt psychotherapist because my needs felt immediate. Because we’ve lost touch and I don’t have permission, I’ll call my therapist ‘Ian’, for all the ‘ians’ who I didn’t choose. I had a healthy childhood and had no desire to rehash my early experiences looking for clues and reasons for my current challenges. I was lucky and blessed to attract another unique fixed thinking type who would help me find my way back to being myself. As an adaptable thinking type, I tend to attract other thinking types. In astrology, Gemini is mutable, Libra is cardinal, and Aquarius is a fixed type.

Aquarius image

Angelo was both an Aquarius sun sign and a fixed thinking hand type. That combines his behavior with his psyche. People think that Aquarius is a water sign. They see a water bearer pouring water out of a jug, along with a symbol  that looks like waves. Aquarius is a thinking type. Water embodies unconscious and feeling. The water bearer is pouring ‘feeling’ out of the jug in favor of ‘thinking’. I relate well with Aquarians.

Once a week, I’d weave a melodramatic web of intrigue for Ian, hoping to receive his insight, understanding, and sympathy. When I’d finished, Ian would say, “So what else is new?”  He’d clean his nails or play with his new electronic gadget. Why didn’t he look into my eyes? Was he listening? How dare he waste my time and money? I was pissed and confronted him. That was the start of my healing.

Ian knew when to look into my eyes. I’d say “but”, he’d say “and”.  I’d say “can’t”, he’d say “don’t want to!” Ian noticed my every gesture and facial expression. I couldn’t get away with a thing. It soon occurred to me that maybe I was taking myself too seriously.

Ian’s unorthodox methods and clever techniques made me realize it was possible to throw a switch on the inside and change my attitude. His thinking type hands were a cross between mine and Angelo’s with square palms and long fingers held widely apart. My hands were very flexible while Ian’s were very stiff like Angelo’s. I was a “jack of all trades”. He was a “specialist”. One of many tasks Ian accomplished was to help me find focus and clarity in my thinking. Ian’s palms and fingers were thicker than mine, but softer and smoother than Angelo’s and his fingers were less knotty and fingertips more round. Ian’s strong will, determination, and focus was mental as opposed to physical. I doubt he ever made or fixed anything. I sought Ian’s friendship as well as his therapy. He was fascinated by my passion for reading hands.

As founder of an institute for Gestalt Psychology in NYC, Ian suggested that I enroll in an intermediate study group. I participated weekly for two years and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Psychology compliments metaphysics and provides a strong foundation for counseling. “It’s much easier to see than to know what to say about what you see”.

I learned to carefully listen and closely observe others from Ian. I also learned that it’s not what you see, but what you say and how you say it that matters in the final analysis.

I once asked Ian, “What do you say to your craziest clients?”  He told me, “I tell them to act normal or someone will come along and lock them up.” My fascination and curiosity about human character would soon lead me to exploring criminally insane people.

How I Became the Guru of Garbage – part 2

Necessity truly is the mother of invention.  I hadn’t anticipated how hard it would be to make money while trying to make a difference in the world. I needed to generate more income. While working in my tiny study in the back of our apartment one afternoon, I began thinking about how many people have small living spaces and how much stuff they have. It’s not easy to stay organized and uncluttered. Even though I’d given up designing products for the sake of fashion, I figured I could still design something useful, environmentally correct, and hopefully make money at the same time.

Many people work out of their homes and don’t have a private work space. It’s a good idea to conceal your work when you’re not working, even if it’s already separate from the rest of your living space. I estimated that a 6’ X 6’ X 2’ deep box can hold a small home office and also open out to become a room divider. I sketched a few possibilities and then tested various materials and manufacturing processes. When I felt confident that my idea would work, I presented it to Lisa Smith, a successful furniture designer. Lisa liked the idea and offered to let me use her model making shop, photo studio, and furniture industry contacts in exchange for a partnership on the project.

Lisa and I fabricated scale models out of natural long lasting materials like jute, hemp, and homosote. We approached major office furniture manufacturers like Knoll and Steelcase, who nibbled on our bait, but didn’t bite. We were told that it would take a minimum $50,000 investment to fabricate full scale prototypes and test market them. Nobody was willing to advance the money. We had hoped to walk away with a deposit and a royalty contract. Unfortunately, our back burners were already overflowing with unrequited projects like our ‘Office in a Box’.

OFFICE in a BOX

Office in a Box

Office in a Box 2

I mentioned earlier that I have very strong Scorpio symbolism in my horoscope. Saturn and Pluto straddle my Midheaven, conjunct in the sign of Leo. Pluto rules Garbage. Saturn is the Guru. NY Newsday, Metropolis Magazine, and Fox TV – ‘Good Day NY’ serially dubbed me “The Guru of Garbage”. Garbage was a weird distinction, but I figured if the shoe fits, “Recycle, Reuse, or Recreate” it. I became internationally known for my innovative uses of recycled materials. I was the focus of numerous magazine and newspaper articles and television appearances. I participated in panel discussions, spoke at universities, gave workshops, and presented my creations in museums, galleries, and traveling exhibitions around the world. I was featured as a successful ecological designer in German and Japanese newspapers, magazines, and television.

During my seven year tenure as Guru of Garbage, everyone wanted to contribute to my cause by giving me his or her unwanted trash. Manufacturers began sending samples of their manufacturing waste. I received everything from truckloads of trimmings of cork and various plastics and composite materials, to barrels of greasy sludge. They thought I could perform alchemy and make treasure from their trash. I appreciated the sentiment and valued the challenge, but the process of turning trash into treasure is lot more work than reward, except for the high esoteric value. Trash to treasure is a metaphor for transforming liabilities into assets. Saturn (Lead) can be turned into (Gold) the Sun.

I forgot to mention that my Guru of Garbage days coincided with the birth of my daughter, Cassie, and her early childhood. I hoped to make a better world for her. Even at two years old, Cassie was well aware of my preoccupation with trash. As we walked along the streets of NYC together, she’d constantly be bending over to pick up some gross and disgusting thing that some person had thrown on the sidewalk. “Here daddy!” she’d exclaim. I’d thank her, then walk to the nearest trash can and throw it away. The best part was when others noticed. They were either inspired or shamed into picking something up off the sidewalk. They’d always look and smile at us as we acknowledged their good deed with a nod of approval. Sometimes, I wondered whether I was blessed or cursed by my obsession to make a difference.

The following several pages contain pictures of trash that I transformed into treasure.

Pallet landfill to conference room

Reincarnated lamp and mirror

Thrown

Odds and Ends

One day I was driving down a country road in upstate NY and noticed a couple of weathered farmers sitting in front of a broken down barn. I was searching for old wooden planks that they’d be willing to sell. They took me up to an old hay loft and showed me a stack of dusty rough cut lumber that had probably been laying there for at least thirty years. I had no idea what kind of wood it was, but it was heavy. I felt sure it was some kind of hardwood. I bought the whole stack for $10. They helped load it into my station wagon. When I got back to my workshop, I ran the rough lumber through the wood planer. It turned out to be beautifully aged solid cherry with a lot of rough edges and ends and lots of knots. Most woodworkers cut these defects away in the process of furniture making. I decided to design defective furniture from the get go. I found the imperfections very beautiful and used them as design elements. My client was in the recycling business and loved my creation!

Cherry Desk

It’s rewarding to transform something useless into something useful. It’s also great to be loved and appreciated by family, friends, colleagues, students, and clients. Without real financial support, however, it can be extremely challenging. I found myself delving more deeply each day into the mother of all garbage – Psychic Garbage. Stay tuned.

How I Became the Guru of Garbage – part 1

Remember how confused I was about what to do next as I terminated my product manufacturing phase? Suddenly and unexpectedly, I had an epiphany while strolling through Bloomingdale’s. I was scrutinizing how my products were being merchandised and sold and a question popped into my mind. If everything I designed never existed, would it make a bit of difference to anyone besides me?

“You get more money for fashion” had always been my mantra. Now, no matter how I rationalized the usefulness of my creations, their existence festered in my mind. While I prospered, millions of gallons of fossil fuels were depleted; air was polluted, water was  wasted, and landfills that were already inundated with award winning design, became further adorned with no longer fashionable products of my creation. I was beginning my metamorphosis from egomaniac to ecomaniac.

Recycling CredenzaOther designers who I knew were still trying to invent the ultimate gimmick that would make them rich and famous. Not me. I’d design environmentally useful and long lasting products. I began designing inexpensive eye-catching insulating window treatments to help save energy. I created stylish recycling furniture out of recycled materials to help home recyclers Recycling organic wastefashionably and efficiently sort their trash. It seemed like everyone’s enthusiasm was infectious, however, who would speculate on the hefty initial investment of tooling, materials, packaging, and inventory? One manufacturer who I presented the concept to declared my idea as a ‘passing fad’ and dubbed it “yuppie garbage cans”.

 

I became painfully conscious of humanity’s environmental problems while I agonized over my own personal wastefulness and ever-accumulating trash. A few months earlier I’d imagined buying my own private jet, now I was torturing myself over what to do with a bottle cap. My rapidly decreasing income forced a change in lifestyle. I moved from a luxurious mid-town loft-sublet to a very claustrophobic rent stabilized tenement apartment in Little Italy. I rarely stayed there because I spent nights at my girlfriend Joanna’s tiny tenement apartment in the East Village. I had lived alone in a vast sky lit penthouse loft. Now, I was sharing a large windowed closet with Joanna, cockroaches, mice, and noisy neighbors.

Unfortunately, ‘at-a-boys’ and ‘pats on the back’ don’t pay the rent. I began teaching part time continuing education classes at the New School for Social Research in NYC – furniture making, woodcarving, creative woodworking, model making, and plastics workshops. I also taught an ‘Invention’ course at Parsons School of Design and an ‘Industrial Design’ class at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

My primary income came from designing and fabricating exclusive furniture for designers and architects who served wealthy people. Over time, it became harder for me to cope with the pollution. Splinters, sawdust, and schlepping were already more than enough character building experience for me. I refused to work with toxic materials, which eliminated most composite materials, plastic laminates, adhesives, finishes, and clients. Then the straw that broke the camel’s back revealed its nasty face. My close friend and business partner in our custom furniture making shop surprised everyone by suddenly and unexpectedly becoming addicted to ‘Crack’. David took one toke and was hooked. Our work was being featured in major architecture and design magazines. At the same time, financial pressures and production deadlines were stressing us out. I had to hide the petty cash. I’d come to work in the morning and find cigarette butts standing on their filters all over the shop machinery. I cringed when the phone rang late at night. Come to think of it, I cringed when the phone rang during the day too. Our clients, who were mainly architects and designers, began telling me that they were disappointed in me and our suppliers were asking for money that I didn’t have. After calling the cocaine hotline a couple of times, David’s family and I intervened. We shipped him off to rehab in Puerto Rico. While he was away, I hastily liquidated our beloved workshop for a fraction of its value.

It dawned on me that by teaching industrial design, I was inadvertently polluting the world by helping others to manifest their ideas for personal profit and glory. I began                     teaching ‘Designing with Garbage’ at Parsons School of Design. I’d say to my students, “Wake up and smell the garbage”. Most design ends up as trash. Industrial, commercial, and post-consumer waste is the Urban Ore of the future. At first, people laughed at us picking materials out of the trash, but the more my students and I worked with these materials, the more we realized how easy it is to keep consuming and how a recycling closed loop needs to develop its own infrastructure.  A community’s plastic milk and detergent bottles whose original use has been fulfilled can have a durable long lasting reincarnation as a deck, fence, park bench, or marine piling. Below, two of my favorite students from my ‘Designing with Garbage’ class at Parsons School of Design are working on their projects. If you click on Bobby Hansson’s photo, you can see a live presentation of his project on YouTube.  I promise you’ll be entertained.

Bobby Hansson - Designing with GarbagePaul Miller - Designing with Garbage

Concentrating on environmental issues was both enlightening and frustrating. I swung between incredible optimism and idealism and extreme cynicism and sarcasm. I know ‘every little bit helps’, but big issues like public education and environmental policy are what need to change. Dealing with these problems requires a fundamental shift in our society. Designers can play a vital role. When designers select materials to be used in a product they predetermine whether sustainable resources are used, how much energy will be consumed during production, what pollutants will be generated, and finally, how it will be disposed of, recycled, or reused.

Sitting on compacted cansUnless responsible products are designed and promoted and substantial markets developed, recycling will fail. Billions of tons of accumulated plastics, mixed glass,  construction debris, wooden shipping pallets, rubber tires, batteries, organic waste, and  many other materials will be land-filled or incinerated and eventually end up in our  lungs, blood, and genes. We’re being genetically modified by our lifestyle choices. These materials can be reincarnated into useful and long lasting products.

 

 

New York NewsdayI identified with Don Quixote in my Designing with Garbage days. At least windmills don’t pollute. They should collect solar as well as wind energy to make them more efficient. Solar energy coatings can also be applied to roof tops and surfaces that are exposed to sunlight. Unfortunately, there are more ways to collect than store energy.

 

Gallery of Trash

My all-time favorite industrial design student, Wendy Brawer, became my co-teacher for a ‘Design for the Environment’ class at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Wendy and I were on NYC’s Solid Waste and Citywide Recycling Advisory Boards and often spoke to local community boards about managing they’re ever accumulating trash.  We also promoted the use of recycled plastics in NYC’s waterfront. Governmental bureaucracy, lack of adequate funding, and rigid building codes rendered most projects impracticable. We participated in as many events as possible, even though they were financially unrewarding. It’s easy to find pro-bono work and difficult to find true patrons and real financial support for social causes. Our clients would inquire, “Why’s it so expensive? It’s only Garbage!”

Wendy is the only student I’ve ever had that actually practiced what I preached. Even though she had no degree in Industrial Design, she became head of the environmental committee for the IDSA (Industrial Design Society of America). She also became Designer in Residence at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. Wendy created an amazing ecological “Green Map” system WWW.GREENMAP.ORG.

I’m very proud of her.

Wendy Brawer - Greenmap logo

Wendy is a Cancer (feeling type) sun sign. She’s actually an intuitive type. She has ambitious index fingers on rectangular palms with short fingers. Her personality is much more like an Aries. She’s passionate, inspired most of the time, spontaneous, and extremely proactive. Her separated head and life line symbolize an innate dislike for bureaucracy and a natural rebelliousness. With fingers held closely together, Wendy is a great team player and a fabulous partner. Just ask her remarkable husband Ray. Check out the budding mapmakers below. Wendy has inspired many thousands of green minded people of all ages all over the planet.

Budding Greenmappers

 

Wendy's recycling container

Budding mapmakers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wendy’s “Stamp Out Junk Mail Kit” helped raise consumer awareness of paper waste.

Wendy's stamp out junk mail flier

One of Wendy and my pet projects was “Energy Savings Stamps”. We approached Con Edison and Long Island Lighting on the east coast and Pacific Gas & Electric on the west coast with our concept to include a page of stamps in their monthly or quarterly billing statements. Consumers could paste stamps into their calendars to remind them to perform simple very important energy savings tasks. The utilities claimed they liked our concept, but for one reason or another they ultimately rejected it. We thought about going to the US Postal Service, but didn’t. Talk about bureaucracies.

Energy Saving Stamps

While Wendy and I taught Design for the Environment at Cooper Union, we initiated a class project to raise consumer awareness about transportation issues. There were so many possibilities. Imagine the peace, quiet, fresh air, and friendliness that could occur in a culture of alternative transportation. Envision designated highways free of heavy dangerous oil consuming and polluting vehicles. Visualize frequent stops for healthy foods and local services, maintenance, recreation, maps, and directories. Picture practical comfortable human and electric powered bikes, scooters, and work vehicles. What about vehicles with light weight frames and inflatable bodies?

The potential for inflatable technology has barely been tapped. Physical damage and personal injuries could be greatly reduced by building powerful durable airbags into car bumpers so that they can inflate outward on designated impact. Why wait for the vehicle to reach the passengers before the air bag inflates? Cars could actually bounce instead of trounce. Why not design inflatable outerwear for motorcycling and extreme sporting events? Why can’t gigantic baffled plasticized fiberglass airbags be built into the structure of buildings and bridges? Specific vibrations inflate airbags and temporarily hold structures together while many people escape certain death or injury. Why not retrofit existing structures?  With so many definite possibilities, we wished we had the resources to speculate.

Inflatable Window InsulationAirbags can also be used as inflatable insulation for maintaining a hot or cold environment. We can keep a six-pack or a walk in freezer cold or maintain warmth in a large industrial building. Drafty windows, doors, and attics can be permanently or temporarily retrofitted with clear air filled vinyl mattresses that easily inflate, deflate, and interlock and come in stock and adjustable sizes.

 

Our class decided to try to raise consumer awareness about automotive waste. A huge auto show was coming up soon. We talked the powers that be into letting us have a small space (for free) in the basement of the Jacob Javits Convention Center in NYC, along with several other alternative transportation advocates and inventors of electric and human powered vehicles. For anyone who has never been to one, auto shows are a lot of glitzy over-priced vehicles that go much faster than any speed limits. Scantily clad models with an overabundance of pheromones are objectified to help glamorize and sell cars. Our class produced T-shirts and bumper stickers. We barely sold anything and were regarded as heretics and renegades, but thousands of people got to see our messages. None of us had any regrets.

Bumper Stickers 1

 

Bumper Stickers 2

 

The Esoteric Power of the Sun

Back in the early ‘80’s, a manufacturer who I had designed drinking mugs for asked me if I’d design something metaphysical for them. The collection of astrology mugs below is the final outcome. They were designed for department stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Masculine sun signs were printed in 24 carat gold and feminine signs in platinum. Buyers loved them. Unfortunately, customers began returning mugs when they got damaged in their dishwasher, even though they had been merchandised as ‘wash by hand’ only. My astrology mug collection was discontinued despite my suggestion to try printing it again with dishwasher safe colorful inks.

Astrology Mug Collection

Allow me to share a unique experience that strengthened my faith in the power of the sun.

Solar Talisman MugOne dreary mid-winter day in 1998, I sat in my study staring at a cobalt blue cup featuring a radiant yellow sun surrounded by stars. It had been a gift for speaking about ‘the horoscope in the hands’ at a NCGR (National Council for Geocosmic Research) conference for astrologers in NYC. I was a faculty member and their resident palmist for about 20 years. I felt inspired by my sun cup and rummaged around for a small mug shot of myself. After I cut out my face, I glued it to the center of the sun. Then I laminated several layers of crystal clear film over that. While I worked, I imagined how I could be more like Apollo, the Greek Sun God. As I finished burnishing the edges, I raised the cup in my left hand to observe my handiwork and the phone rang, “Hello, I’m the Public Program Coordinator for the National Design Museum. We’re curating a major Solar Energy Exhibition this June and are wondering whether you’d be interested in conducting the Lecture / Workshop series on the Symbolism of the Sun?”

I nearly fell out of my chair. I’d experienced synchronicity, but this was unbelievable. How could a talisman work so quickly? Confidently, I replied, “You’ve come to the right place.” The magic of the sun materialized the moment I combined the esoteric power of the sun with clear intent and action. My life instantly became sunnier.

Hex SignI started designing a lot of talismans after that. A talisman is anything including a simple piece of paper with a scribble on it that’s symbolic of something that you want to impress on your psyche to create change or to reinforce something that must be strengthened. Amulets and hex signs are symbols that are frequently used for protection. You see a lot of hex signs in Amish country, blessing barns and homes and protecting livestock from harm.

It’s important to realize that everything has a natural correspondence. The more that people tune in to their natural connections, the more powerful the effect of the talisman will be. Your sun sign is a dominant archetype in your psyche. The sun corresponds to gold and diamonds. Gold and diamonds worn on the ring finger (sun) is marriage magic.

The sun in Leo (July 23 – August 23) rules the fifth house of the natural horoscope. The Sun’s day is Sunday. The Sun’s most powerful hour is noon. Other gemstones besides diamonds that the sun rules are amber and topaz. In Kabala, Tiphareth corresponds to the Sun and the number six, which balances the tree of life. The Crown Chakrah is ruled by the sun. The heart is the organ ruled by the sun. Solar archetypes exist in every culture: GREEK – Apollo and Hercules, JUDAIC – Samson, EGYPTIAN – Osiris, AFRICAN – Anansi, INDIAN – Narasimha, HINDU –Vishnu, PERSION – Mithra, JAPANESE – Amaterasu, NORSE – Odin, IRISH – Lugh, and   ARTHURIAN – Percival. The Lion King and Goldilocks are solar fairy tales. Lots of Leos are myths in their own minds. Musical links for the sun are the key of C and most instruments. Solar trees are citrus, walnut, bay, and palm. Solar herbs, plants, and scents are sun flower, yellow poppy, saffron, marigold, cinnamon, pepper, peony, musk, honey, frankincense, rice, and all aromatic herbs. Aroma of Frankincense (Christ and the Nativity) when used in ritual magic brings good health, wealth, success, acclaim, mental clarity, fearlessness, confidence, and spiritual awakening. Pyrite, fool’s gold, eases anxiety, frustration, and depression. Pyrite is wise man’s gold when charged with clear vision and pure intention to attract wealth, boost self-esteem, aid communications, and enhance appreciation.

My point is that the more correspondences you use while creating your talisman (always best to create your own), the more powerful the effect will be. After my fateful sun mug experience, I felt inspired by the idea of talismans and created my own little metal working shop at our country home where I could make talismans to my heart’s content. I use very specific metals, minerals, and gems to fabricate talismans on a specific day and time of day. Facing the right direction, particular incense, or the right musical vibration can greatly enhance the potency of the talisman.I made the four talismans below for myself.

talismans

As you can see, ‘Grounding’ is a bit beat up. Needless to say, I need a lot of grounding. This talisman works for me because I created it with the clear intent of becoming whole and centered. It’s mainly copper, which represents Venus and earth and is grounded in the world of practicality. Gold stimulates clear thinking, passion, intuition, and inspiration. Silver symbolizes feelings and emotion. Square shapes within circles and circles within circles give structure, discipline, and focus to inspiration, passion, and a sense of adventure.

‘Energizing’ is solid bronze and has an opal in the center. There was a huge crack throughout the entire casting. I almost didn’t use it. I decided that the crack was there as an important design element and a path from the outside of the circle to the inside of the opal. By the time I finished polishing the talisman, it felt perfect for me and my purpose.

‘Strengthening’ was created on a picture-perfect day in May (Taurus). The bull’s horns remind me to be persistent. This talisman helps me think with my head and feel with my heart. It’s also primarily bronze, which is a blending of copper, tin, zinc, and lead. From an alchemical point of view, it blends Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn in a way that balances ambition and compassion with action and provides the framework to fulfill my desires.

‘Centering’ consists of circles within circles, heart (copper) surrounded by mind (gold) and emotion (silver). Six small outer circles within two large inner circles represent masculine (gold) and feminine (silver) principles and twelve aspects of my character that I desire to balance and protect: behavior, values, thinking, feelings, will power, health, relationships, creativity, philosophy, purpose, hopes and dreams, and spirituality.

I just received a link to some very beautiful talismans that I’d like to share with you. The manufacturer talks about their properties. I think the prices are very reasonable.

In case you’re not convinced of the power of the sun, let’s take a look at how religions,    politics, governments, dictatorships, and corporations use the esoteric power of the sun to magnetize the masses to their ideologies, products, and services.

Target

Circular logos and iconic names like $tarbucks are no coincidence

Solar Symbols 2

Solar Symbols 3

Solar symbols 4

Products to Services

 

SunLeo rules the Sun, which rules the MC (Midheaven) of my astrological chart. The MC is the cusp of the tenth house, the zenith of a horoscope. The MC symbolizes a person’s career and purpose and illuminates the relationship between father and child. Wherever Leo is in your astrology chart, you need to shine like the Sun. Saturn and Pluto are planets that closely straddle my MC in the sign of Leo. Ancient astrology books define that combo as a recipe for disaster. When I was 29 and Saturn returned to its natal position by transit, my father suddenly and unexpectedly died at age 54. At the times in my life when Saturn or Pluto was transiting my natal Saturn Pluto conjunction; a devastating fire destroyed my candle factory; partners with alcohol, drug, and gambling addictions ruined our businesses; a cotton crisis wrecked my opportunity for success; and one more great opportunity was demolished by a hurricane. I felt like my career was a tragedy waiting to happen.  Any person with Saturn conjunct Pluto in Leo needs to be crystal clear in their intent, disciplined, structured, focused (Saturn) and willing to let go and change (Pluto). Lead is transformed into gold when Saturn and Pluto are employed in the service of the Sun. Real alchemy is metaphysical, not physical.

mark seltman rt hand smI never foresaw any catastrophic events in my hands. Even with 20/20 hindsight, I’d never have predicted misfortune. I have an overlapping break in my fate line for this period, but that could easily have been interpreted as a transition from one career to another. Hand reading is best for identifying basic character. Astrology is useful for gaining insight into a person’s motivations, behavior patterns, habits, and timing. Tarot cards are good for getting at unconscious issues. It’s nearly impossible to be fully objective about oneself.

Everyone plans. No one can truly predict their future.

solar symbolMy intention had been to become a rich and famous designer. I was grandiose, hungry for power, and positive that I’d eventually design some product that everyone wanted or needed. I began wondering if maybe I wasn’t supposed to be doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing.

 

 

After my light filtering window shade fiasco, I became anxious about money. I hadn’t a clue where the next influx would come from. The owner of a butcher block factory who I had designed kitchenware for recommended my design services to a friend who manufactured wooden paddle-ball paddles for a large sports design and marketing company. This guy was rudely awakened when he was told that if he didn’t lower his prices, the company he was supplying would go to Taiwan to purchase their paddles. Making someone else’s paddles was already not all that profitable, so he decided that he needed to create his own proprietary product line and retained me to come up with new design ideas. His company was morphing from being the hired help to becoming the competition. I designed a dozen or so graphic treatments which he felt were too outrageous to speculate on. He asked me several times to go back to the drawing board until he ended up with imitations of the original paddles he had been producing with minor decorative variations. Here are a couple of my efforts and the results. I made a few thousand dollars in the process.

Paddle Ball Paddles

Meanwhile, Avraham and I weren’t about to give up. We tried to “think and grow rich” several more times as our business schemes became even more grandiose.

Hopscotch“Twister” was a very popular floor game at the time. It was printed on a vinyl mat. We did our homework and found that a “Hop Scotch” mat had never been marketed, so we fabricated a prototype. Our challenge was to find a way to protect our investment. Anyone with a piece of chalk owns hop scotch. There was no way we could patent, copyright, or trademark the name. There was also no way we wouldn’t get knocked off by a large player in the game industry if we were to become successful. Then there was the potential insurance liability if anyone slipped and broke their neck or was injured in any way while using our product. We decided there were just too many obstacles to proceed. We also agreed that maybe it was time to put our product ideas on the back burner and try something new, so we stuck our restless toes in the tumultuous waters of the service industry.

“AMERICAN AUTOMOTIVE WARRANTIES CORP” was our attempt to provide new car owners with the maintenance insurance that the automotive industry had recently taken away. We courageously designed and marketed our new concept, initially sending out thousands of carefully crafted brochures to new car buyers. Unfortunately, we were way out of our league and unable to accumulate enough money in escrow to become an insurance company. We tried to find investors, but ultimately had to return the money to customers who had sent us checks.

Our next concept was a bona fide winner, although we ended up being losers. New York City was in a major financial crisis in the mid 1970’s. Avraham and I had an epiphany during one of our many brainstorming sessions. NYC was losing a fortune by not attempting to collect their out of state non-moving traffic violations. We formed NATIONAL TRAFFIC VIOLATION SYSTEMS, INC. and designed official looking stationary informing violators that they had been caught red-handed. We decided that NYC would be a perfect test market for the idea. Other large cities would follow.

It was a slippery slope because a summons is not a judgment and because no one had ever figured out how to quickly and easily trace out of state license plates to drivers. We did. We assumed that enough people would be scared or paranoid enough for us to make a respectable living. We contacted the department of motor vehicles in NYC. They nibbled on our bait by asking for more information on how to pull the idea off. We assumed we could trust them and revealed our entire plan to them. We waited patiently for several weeks for a response. The next thing we knew, we were reading in a Pittsburgh newspaper about how New York was preparing to collect fifty million dollars in non-moving out of state traffic violations.

Needless to say, we were pissed. With plenty of registered letters and correspondences with officials of New York City in hand, we planned to fight for our rights. It’s not how we had hoped to make our money, but it was better than nothing. We showed up in NYC and tried to find a law firm to represent us. Many of the largest law firms had conflicts of interest. NYC was or had been a client of theirs. They told us to let go – to give up. It would be extremely expensive and ridiculously difficult to squeeze a cent out of NYC during their financial crises. NYC was close to bankruptcy. Adding insult to injury, we ended up having to pay the NYC parking violations we’d accrued on our path to failure.

Avraham and I finally decided to throw in the towel. We’d continue to do our own things and be friends and sounding boards for each other. It’s been nearly forty years since our last attempt to do business together. We still speak frequently and still share grand ideas. I was recently walking in the woods with Avraham when he turned to me and said, “I used to dream that I’d be successful and own all sorts of stuff and I do. I’m glad I proved to myself that I could do it and am happy to report that I no longer need any of it to be happy”. I immediately challenged him to let go of it. I doubt that’s going to happen.

After Avraham and I parted ways, I went through a kind of dark period in my design thinking. Punk Rock was popular and there was a kind of fatalism in the air. I designed a collection of printed beach towels that looked like broken glass, rusty nails, hot coals, and a bunch of other stuff that no one would ever want to lie on. Here are a few.

Beach Towels

I’d been designing mugs for a large drinking mug manufacturer when I approached them with my punk-like designs below. I figured that there had to be a market for novelties of this type. They weren’t interested. Since I’d already done the design work, I thought I’d try placing my artwork on a different kind of product. I approached a novelty toilet paper manufacturer who was already printing money and faces of prominent people on toilet paper. I really thought they’d go for my idea. Instead, they told me to “take my socio-political statements elsewhere”.  I didn’t get it. Maybe I’d try t-shirt manufacturers next. I wasn’t sure what to do with my frustration.Mug and toilet paper designsThis is a self-portrait I created during this time. I call it the twelve phases of darkness.

round self portrait

Let There be Filtered Light

AvrahamI met Avraham several years before I moved to New York City. He’s a Leo. Avraham has an Intuitive hand shape with rectangular palms and short stiff fingers and thumbs. His headline and lifeline are joined at his thumb. Avraham grew up on a busy commercial street in a wealthy Jewish community. His father died when he was four. His mother was obese and in poor health. She loved Avraham, but unfortunately for him, she remarried a horrible man who became his evil stepfather. I had no idea who he was, but I used to see this creepy guy at funerals. He was a professional mourner, hired by the local funeral home to lament the dead at funerals. He was a mean spirited man and treated Avraham as an unwanted stepchild in his own home, which was a tiny shabby apartment located above a smelly local butcher shop. While other kids wore monogrammed shirts, English Leather cologne, and drove fancy cars, Avraham looked over his shoulder to make sure no one was watching as he climbed the dingy stairs to his impoverished depressing world.

Avraham’s short index finger and crooked pinkie and middle fingers make for an interesting tale. Despite low self-esteem and his depressing circumstances, Avraham decided at an early age that he would not be poor when he grew up. His bible became ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill. John Lennon was his favorite hero. Avraham studied diligently to become a lawyer. I’ve read many hands of lawyers with crooked pinkies. It’s very easy for them to bend the law. Avraham was as clever as the best of them, however; he chose to embrace rather than twist the law. “We’re all guilty until proven innocent”, he’d say.

Other lawyers, who didn’t know Avraham, saw him as another greedy ‘ambulance chaser’ with questionable ethics. Avraham was the first lawyer in town to post billboards at the scene of regular car accidents and to advertise on local TV. There was nothing illegal about what he did. Avraham was actually a pioneer and a very clever marketing person who put his clients’ needs and interests first. He eventually became very wealthy.  Avraham would say, “It doesn’t take too many good cases to make a decent living”.

At the time Avraham and I met, I was designing and subcontract manufacturing mushroom lamps and a variety of other plastic widgets and fighting with my business partner over his gambling addiction. Ready for change, I viewed Avraham as an opportunity for me to make a lot of money ‘the easy way’ (or so I thought).  At the time, large manufacturers of plain white roll-up vinyl window shades were competing with each other for pennies (still are). Avraham became my partner and our attorney in the window shade business.

We created the ‘stained glass window shade’ and applied for a patent on a clear vinyl roll-up shade that looked like real stained glass when daylight passed through it. We hoped to license Tiffany’s designs, but Tiffany didn’t want any part of cheapening their image with plastic. We should have known better. Instead, we retained a stained glass artisan and made exquisite prototypes of our own. When we presented them to the ultra-conservative buyers at Sears, J.C. Penney’s, Montgomery Ward, and other retail chains, they told us, “Stained glass is for churches, consumers won’t buy them”. We weren’t about to give up.

stained glass window shades

There were mainly cheap plain white vinyl shades on the market. We figured that there were more than enough ugly views from windows to make a fabulous living. Our primary challenge was to pay for expensive materials, tooling, setup charges, and minimum production runs. We traveled all over the USA, trying to license our stained glass window shade concept to the shade industry. There were seven major players at the time. We heard ‘NO’ seven times for a variety of reasons. We had gotten a fascinating education, but could no longer afford to speculate on our idea. We hadn’t sold enough shades in two years to meet our minimum financial requirements. Our patent was still good for another 15 years. Frustrated, but hopeful, we waited for a sign from the Cosmos. Our beloved Stained Glass Window Shade was on a back burner.

Avraham and I strolled in the woods, which was our office at the time. Why weren’t decorative window shades everywhere? Our pondering led us to a variety of challenges. Window shades were dirt cheap. Our concept was to increase the value of the plain white shade with fashion. We figured that producing more elegant translucent shade materials and utilizing inexpensive beautiful printing methods would appeal to consumers, buyers, and the logic of shade manufacturers. We’d say, “You get more money for fashion”. They’d reply, “You have to make a lot of shades to pay for your mistakes”.

Window Shade departments were the most mundane utilitarian department in the home furnishings industry. They were nearly as bad as trying to locate palmistry books in bookstores. If you looked for the drabbest, remotest, most inconvenient corner of the bargain basement, you’d find plain white shades in different lengths stacked in vertical bins under cutting machines. Many little plastic bags of shade hardware hung above.

Our research revealed that seven major textile mills controlled upscale department store markets for sheets, comforters, blankets, towels, table cloths, curtains, draperies, and upholstery fabrics. JP Stevens & Co was the leader of the seven. We approached them with our coordinated shade idea and licensed their most successful patterns; polka dot, gingham, calico, and denim. Seemed like a lot of money for squares, squiggles and dots, but we were now married to a powerful octopus with many very long tentacles. Our plan was to purchase short production runs of printed cotton sheeting which we’d then coat with vinyl resin and convert into window shade cloth. We’d produce them by piggy backing production runs of their most popular patterns and tacking on a few thousand yards for our product at the end of their run. We needed to sell a lot of shades to break even, but assumed that JP Stevens’ retail customers would gratefully purchase our shades.

Our next challenge was finding the best way to approach retail shade buyers. It would take some serious alchemy to transform their dowdy merchandising to chic. We begged buyers and merchandise managers for ten square feet of floor space in the drapery department with electricity to illuminate our product. We provided JP Stevens and department store buyers with pictures of coordinated shades for bed and bath product merchandising, advertising, and promotion. I designed the display fixture below. The picket fence swung open to reveal narrower width shades which were stored inside. We convinced Bloomingdale’s and Federated Department Stores to take a chance on us.

Fashion Shade Display

We prototyped Wamsutta’s Ultracale fine cotton bedding collection.

Wamsutta Ultracale Collection

We chose designs for kitchens, family rooms, and children’s rooms.

Shades for Kitchen, Family Room, and Kid's Room

We converted upholstery fabrics to window shade cloth and designed shade housings.

There are more windows than beds

We were feeling pretty good about the progress we were making, but realized that we were still at the starting line of our obstacle course. We cut the children’s patterns loose   because the royalties and minimum guarantees were ridiculously exorbitant. The shades would have cost a small fortune before they even reached the consumer. We decided that we would negotiate a better deal later. We contracted with a large shade manufacturer who was willing to produce, package, and deliver shades made from our materials for a very reasonable price. They were selling utility. We were selling fashion. We figured that they’d buy our shade business from us when we proved ourselves.

We were chomping at the bit to get started. I collected a $50,000 initial purchase order from A&S Department Stores and another $10,000 order from Bloomingdale’s. That’s when Murphy’s Law galvanized like a lightning bolt from hell. When we contacted JP Stevens to purchase yard goods, we were told that there was a cotton crisis and they didn’t have enough sheeting to supply their own needs. We suggested that they print our product on muslin, but they still had the same problem. Meanwhile, A &S was getting nervous because they realized that the shade patterns would be visible from the outside of the windows, especially at night when shades were lit from the inside. We’d anticipated that some people wouldn’t buy the shade for that reason, but didn’t consider that to be a huge problem. We had looked into laminating a translucent white vinyl film onto the back of the shade cloth. It added substantially to the price of the finished shade. It also created a possibility that the shade might curl inward instead of hanging flat in the window. Both sides must be laminated to create proper lay flat. We considered printing the patterns on vinyl shade film, but it was cost prohibitive to purchase expensive rotogravure print rollers for minimum production runs.

We contacted the department stores, explaining that we were unable to deliver their orders on time. We let each other off the hook. Meanwhile, the Burlington Domestics Bedroom Scenic Collection had become the hottest selling patterns in the market place. With a burst of inspiration I thought, ‘Why not offer consumers natural sheets with real nature scenes?’ I rendered up a batch and showed them to department store buyers.

My bedsheet designs

Closet accessoriesI also sketched some closet accessories to match and then met with the president of Burlington Industries domestics division. He told me that “they were unable to do a project of this nature at this time”. He told me that a person with my creativity should be working on “new ways for people to sleep”. That was a nice compliment, but it didn’t help me pay my rent.

 

Avraham let go of window shades to pursue more lucrative projects at that point, but not me. I was at my wit’s end when I came up with what I believe was my most brilliant window shade idea. If shade manufacturers, buyers, and consumers wanted plain white vinyl shades, I’d give them plain white vinyl shades. Elegant patterns could be illuminated when daylight passed through translucent shade materials that had been printed with an opaque white ink that matched the vinyl. I created prototypes and licensed the idea to Kenney Manufacturing Company. Dick Kenney was my favorite CEO in the shade and drapery hardware industry. It felt like a perfect match. I named my collection ‘Reflections’.

This is how the plain white shades looked when daylight passed through them.

white on white shade collection

I also created a unique collection of illuminated pattern designs which I called

New Early American Folk Art

New early american folk art

Hurricane HugoOnce again, we were all set to go when disaster struck. Hurricane Hugo hit Kenney’s shade manufacturing plant in Charleston, SC and completely destroyed it. Dick Kenney called and apologized to me while I offered him my sympathies. My most important project was once again reluctantly placed on a back burner. I was mind boggled. Every time I got close to what I wanted, it was ripped from my grasp by outside circumstances. Stay tuned for more of my physical and metaphysical misadventures.

My Metaphysical Memoir 2

a bike routeI just got back from my bike ride. Bike riding is a daily ritual for me. My goal is to be at one with my bike and environment and ride as often as I can. Hot or cold, rain or shine, except for icy conditions, I traverse several fifteen mile bike routes that run in opposite directions from our country home. It takes about an hour to circle around over Vermont back country roads and forest trails. I’ve traversed nearly 4,000 miles of dirt roads on my bike over the past couple of years. Old logging roads are exhilarating when I’m in the mood for obstacles like ruts, potholes, gravel, rocks, boulders, logs, branches, sharp curves, steep hills, and muddy weather conditions. Mother Nature constantly challenges me with her ageless beauty, timeless transformation, and capricious temperament while she nourishes and encourages me to become whole, centered, and peaceful.

plastic injection molded mushroom lampAfter my candle factory fiasco, I no longer wanted to be married to manufacturing. I decided that it was better to hire someone else to manufacture products while I concentrated on designing and marketing them. I formed a fourth partnership that we dubbed ‘Universal Media’. I became the executive vice president. We subcontract manufactured injection molded plastic mushroom lamps, along with a variety of other plastic items. I no longer have a picture of our actual lamp, but it looks a lot like the one in this picture. Our best-selling lamp was created by mixing colored plastic beads together in the molding process, which resulted in an unpredictable marbleized effect. Each lamp was different and exotic in its own way. Our products were assembled and packaged in sheltered workshops.

“This is It”, I thought.  I’m helping handicapped people, giving consumers attractive and useful products, not doing the dirty work, and making a profit. It didn’t take long; however, for me to become extremely frustrated by being forced to do police work. I’d have to show up unexpectedly, roll up my sleeves, and dig my work out from the bottom of the pile. When a product is not proprietary, it’s not a priority. That was a hard pill to swallow, but as the money rolled in, my new partner’s no longer secret gambling addiction made it easier. He would effortlessly throw away five thousand dollars at the craps table in Las Vegas. Following numerous yelling matches, I walked away empty handed, but relieved.

That was the end of subcontract manufacturing for me. I decided to manufacture design only. I’d create products and completely remove myself from manufacturing problems, pollution, police work, and pathetic partners. In my quest to sell my first new product idea, I bounded from one potential client to the next, living in the cheapest fleabag hotels in the largest cities across the country. I’d wake up and look at my date book to see what city I was in and who I’d be seeing where and at what time.

old times squareAfter two years of not selling anything, with finances by the seat of my pants, I moved to New York City where I had one friend, my Dad’s sister, Aunt Lil, who expressed great consternation as I settled into a seedy fleabag hotel at 43rd St. and 8th Ave in Times Square. I ignored Lil’s disgruntled pleas and warnings, figuring it was cheap, centrally located, and within walking distance of never running out of doors to knock on. Once a week, Aunt Lil treated me to lunch including a care package of home cooked comfort food. I never told her, but often shared her nutritious meals with my homeless neighbors.  Aunt Lil was a personal secretary to one of the top VP’s at Citicorp. She volunteered dutifully to also be my humble secretary, never judging, criticizing my choices, or complaining about the work. I adored Aunt Lil and couldn’t wait to see her each week. We confided in each other and shared our deepest secrets. By day, I wore three-piece suits as I knocked on doors with my design portfolio and prototypes in hand. The rest of the time, I did piece work in local machine shops. I’d operate a drill press and do repetitive work all day long. Other times, shop owners would take on specialized projects if I agreed to fabricate them. At night, I patronized misfits in local bars in exchange for their stories and frequented the glut of porn and martial arts theaters in the hood.

Of course, Aunt Lil was right. One dark evening, I was mugged at knife-point while innocently exploring the outskirts of Times Square. I naively got backed into a dark corner of a parking lot. As my predator probed my pockets, he allowed his knife hand to drop by his side for a moment. I slammed him with all my might in the chest with my fist. He flew through the air, landing on his back. With my heart pounding like Olatungi on crack, I ran red-faced, jackrabbit style for several blocks. Suddenly, I stopped and thought, “I should have grabbed his knife and killed him”. I considered going back. That’s when I realized I had watched too many Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood movies.

I stayed in my hotel room the following night with a fifth of Jack Daniels from the liquor store. I’d never been much of a drinker, but managed to polish off the entire bottle. The next morning, I felt sicker than I could ever remember. I lay incapacitated for three days; feeling dizzy, barfing my brains out, inhaling the musty smells of poor housekeeping (a sordid stench), and hearing echoes of human pain and suffering that I had previously ignored or failed to notice.

Immediately, I engaged a roommate service. At first, my leads led to lonely gay men looking for love. I finally ended up lying about my diet and living on the upper west side as a single carnivorous man in an apartment full of lovely single vegetarian women. The experience made me crave sex and rare hamburger. After a year of too much rabbit food and not enough decadence, I moved to a large loft space in Tribecca where I set up a design and model-making studio. I shared a wall with Meryl Streep who was not an icon at the time. She was living in an adjoining loft with her sculptor boyfriend.

Cutting BoardsAfter several months, I sold my first design concept. Kitchen Art was a line of finely crafted expensive cutting boards, knife blocks, rolling pins, and other wooden-ware. I’d been designing and fabricating limited editions of expensive kitchenware for crafts fairs, galleries, and fancy retail gift stores. I’ve included several of my favorite pieces from various collections.  I envisioned each object as a symbolic charm such as a talisman or an amulet with an ability to attract and protect. My artistic creations became “lost leaders” in department stores. My cutting boards and knife blocks made their expensive staple products sell better because they were much less expensive in comparison to mine.

rolling pins

Trivets and Coasters

Commercial Cutting Boards

I believed I was on my path to fame and fortune. I worked tirelessly for about six months, producing hundreds of prototypes, which lost much of their magic in their commercial translation.

Knife Blocks

All the `at a boys’ and ‘pats on the back’ from buyers and merchandise managers fueled my optimism and idealism. Cutlery companies provided sample sets of their highest quality knives for my blocks.

Clocks

It seemed like a short jump from laminated cutting boards to designing clocks. All I needed to do was mill a space in the back large enough to accommodate a battery operated movement. I foraged into designing decorative electric clocks and novelty night lights for exclusive markets.

Electric Clocks

I was unable to market plug in products to department stores because they didn’t have UL (United Laboratories) approval, even though I’d used all UL approved parts. I needed to have my designs tested, which required many thousands of dollars of initial investment and a long waiting period.

Night Lights

I explained in an earlier entry that when I arrived in NYC, one of the first things I did with my limited resources was to consult top hand readers, astrologers, and tarot readers. I was warned that New York City was a dangerous place for me and as predicted, I was accosted several times at knife point and once at gun point over the years. I was also informed that I was a late bloomer and that I would continue to have a series of disasters and misadventures until I finally settled into my proper niche, at which time I’d become a very well-known authority on that topic.
Hermes“The lips of wisdom are closed except to the ears of understanding.” I began my life as Hermes (Peter Pan). I personified Aphrodite as an adolescent, Apollo as a young man, and Chronos in middle age. At sixty-seven, I’m a maturing Hermes (Mercury), father of modern wisdom. Every one of us embodies all archetypes in varying degrees. Although we always have a dominant archetype, secondary archetypes become temporarily dominant at different periods in our lives. An awareness of our archetypes and archetypal relationships corresponds to actual changes in our current behaviors and relationships.

 

My Sun/ Uranus conjunction in the sign of Gemini symbolizes my need to be rebellious and an inventor. I have Aries on the cusp of my astrological sixth house of work and health. Aries and Mars rule fire; a single candle or a candle factory burning down. Aries represents my passion for work and my need to pioneer. Taurus rules arts and crafts. My Moon Mars conjunction in Taurus embodies my desire for security, comfort, and prosperity. It also corresponds well with my Aries partner, Joanna, who has Venus conjunct Taurus rising. I sometimes call her ‘Rambull’.  Aries and Mars rules arguments and disagreements. I had more than my share of those with business partners. Taurus on the seventh house cusp can symbolize having partners who are stubborn obsessive-compulsive types. Having a Taurus Moon helps me stay pragmatic and calm in the face of adversity. Scorpio rising and my Saturn/Pluto conjunction in the sign of Leo on my mid-heaven presided over my many business disasters and my frequent encounters with sex and violence on the streets of New York.

My Metaphysical Memoir

mom and dad 2My last two stories introduced my mom, dad, and childhood. It’s time to examine my character. I’ll attempt to explain how I perceive and interpret my archetypal relationships with family, friends, clients, celebrities, heroes, and anti-heroes. I plan to share my insights and understanding of our symbolism as our relationships and lives unfold.

 

When I graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a B.A. in Industrial Design in 1969, my parents assumed that I’d be designing for someone else. “It’s time for you to go out and find a job”, they announced. “A job? Not me. I’m going to be an inventor.”  “What will you invent?” they asked. “Ways of making a living.”  I replied. They assured me I had their mental, emotional, and spiritual support. I thanked them and immediately put on my thinking cap because my greatest challenge was not having any money.

My chronic lack of finances motivated me to ponder my dilemma on a macro and micro scale at the same time. I had become a craftsman and model maker, specializing in fabricating objects from wood, soft metals, and plastics. I would easily survive. I figured that if someone could make a fortune creating and promoting a “pet rock”, I could surely invent something that would provide me with a good income and creative freedom.

Big Mac Coaster SetThere were not many novelty coaster sets on the market at the time. I cut seven circles and a square from wood and replicated a Big Mac hamburger, staining and painting the individual pieces to simulate ingredients. They actually looked pretty appetizing. I felt confident that MacDonald’s would go for the idea. We could injection mold individual plastic pieces and imprint them. I presented the idea to product management at MacDonald’s corporate headquarters and suggested they call it a ‘Big Mac Coaster Set’. I encouraged them to market it with box tops or give it away with a certain size order. They weren’t interested. So I went directly to upstairs department stores with my hamburger coaster prototypes. Buyers liked the idea and wanted to purchase small quantities to sell, but not enough to pay for tooling and minimum production runs. My hamburger coaster idea went on a back burner. Eventually, someone else produced hamburger coasters and profited.

Candle catalog coverI launched my first real business venture with a fellow industrial design graduate and several hundred dollars. We were determined to be successful. Basic column, taper, and votive candles ‘ were staples in the marketplace at the time. We envisioned pioneering a niche for uniquely scented black light candles, ice cream candles, recycled can and bottle candles (Earth Day #1, Aries 1970), and sand-cast candles.  Combining unique methods, materials, and manufacturing processes, we produced limited editions of high quality handcrafted products at wholesale prices. For several months, we trekked a waxy trail between my partner’s living room and kitchen, ruining his stove, pots, pans, and wooden floors. Although my partner was creative and passionate, he was unreliable due to his alcohol dependency. I threatened to abandon him and his two alcoholic mutts (Michelob and Budweiser) and finally deserted them following several ugly and untimely binges. Meanwhile, we’d established a small market for our products in head shops and gift stores.

mushroom candleI promptly relocated to a three thousand square foot warehouse space with a new partner who was also an industrial designer. We borrowed a few thousand dollars each and labored like a couple of obsessive-compulsive maniacs to create equipment, set up manufacturing systems, and generate more substantial orders for candles. This time, my partner deserted me. He ran off to Brazil after his wife was violently killed in an automobile accident. We were under tremendous pressure and he couldn’t handle another drop.

Graciously, my partner apologized and donated his half of the business to me. While he became a tourism guide and fisherman, living with fresh air and water, I tried to hold on to my sanity while sweeping floors, keeping books, purchasing raw materials, and making and delivering orders that were way too large for a small crew of people working full time (let alone the two of us).

recycled can candlesCoca Cola was threatening to drive me out of business for recycling their discarded soda cans into candles. They’d rather have seen them incinerated or land filled than let me use their logo for free. I tried fighting, but quickly learned that it’s futile to fight with a god, so I reused everyone else’s cans.

 

Despite my setbacks, by the end of my first eighteen months in business, I had acquired nearly ten times the warehouse space, and was buying wax by the barge load, essential oils by the barrel, and artificial dyes by the drum. It was a lot of hard and dirty work, but I figured that eventually I’d be able to pay other people to do the dirty work for me.

candle factory fireOne morning I awoke to find that an electric immersible heater malfunction had transformed my factory into the largest candle in Pittsburgh’s history. Smokeless flames over one hundred feet tall had leapt passionately into the night sky. Seventeen fire engines and many firemen worked all night, but were unable to rescue it. While sorting through the rubble, I imagined Hiroshima. Large steel beams had sagged and aluminum molds had melted like ice into puddles. Everything else was charred to a crisp. That was my first really intense experience with pollution. Not just environmental pollution, but a psychic pollution that occurs when you owe a lot of money and have none.  After a year of legal battles, as I frantically scrounged to support a life style that I could no longer afford, a jury awarded me a financial settlement in an insurance lawsuit over my landlord’s (third partner’s) faulty sprinkler system. Bill collectors, like unrequited stalkers, finally let go when I settled with my creditors and investors for ten cents on the dollar. I got nothing.

mark seltman astrological chart

I hadn’t a clue about my symbolism at the time all this chaos was happening. In hindsight, I realized that I was destined to be an inventor, a rebel, a pioneer, a communicator, and failed businessman. I was forced by circumstance to understand what I value, how I think, what I feel, and believe. My candle factory fire and many other disasters and catastrophes that were to follow in my future were also meant to be so that I could become who I was meant to be. I’ll explain as my story unfolds.