The Chinese horoscope may have something to teach us this year

I’m not a fan of horoscopes but a friend of mine, Wendy Churchill, sent me this in her newsletter ‘Life is a Bag of Revels’.

I think there may be some great lessons in this.

Dear Karl,

I have never been able to decide whether I believe in horoscopes or not. After all, can all the children born in a particular year really turn out to be introverts? And can one in every twelve people really expect luck from a man smoking a cigar in a second class carriage?

What I can say for horoscopes, however, is that I have often found them useful, inspiring and an aid to my own thinking. On occasions they have even influenced my future.

Take the current Chinese horoscope prediction for the year ahead for example…

The bad news first: We still have to reap what has been sown

There is much about the Chinese Year of the Ox, I think, that will be a good message for a lot of Life is a Bag of Revels readers. Even the bad news, in fact, can be seen in some ways as positively cleansing.

One thing about the year of the Ox, you see, is that it is said to be the year in which we reap what we have sown.

And how very true that is!

But perhaps a better world will emerge?

We have as a nation indulged in too much credit over recent years so this therefore HAS to be a year when we have to spend and borrow less to redress the balance. And however much the government try to force up to keep on spending, a lot of this slowdown is both inevitable and unnecessary.

Yes, a lot of jobs will be lost in finance but hadn’t too much lending, speculation and dare I even say ‘growth’ or even ‘ faceless greed’ made it become too unwieldy or top heavy in the first place?

And the same, I believe, goes for retail where a lot of other redundancies are occurring. Shopping and the acquisition of slick material luxuries had become too much of a central part of our lives. And while yes it will be terrible for those who lose their jobs in retail, perhaps it is right that retail – and the large out-of-date retail corporations in particular- should shrink or change in this way?

Is a ‘recession’ necessarily such a bad thing? Isn’t a little ‘receding’ needed so that a new kind of growth can occur. A growth that is less fueled by self-edifying financial greed at any cost – more fueled by a desire to live our lives well and enjoy products that also enrich the lives of those who make and sell them. Perhaps we could even start enjoying the spoils of advanced efficiency in manufacturing by all working less hours and having more time for life, fun and love?

There is a real desire for positive change among the people – if not the politicians

Perhaps, for example, rather than wanting to grab big plastic toys off the shelves of Woolworths next time we have to buy a child’s gift, we will want to be more discerning and look for something that has been crafted by a local craftsmen? Rather than the impersonal feel of large stores that suit during a time of self-absorption and shiny consumerism, we will want new ways of shopping that suit our more calm and community-spirited sensibility?

So while the poor people who worked in Woolworths might have lost their jobs (did they like them that much anyway?), perhaps they might, for example, be able to find new and more satisfying employment by setting up a business selling books beautifully illustrated by local artists?

Rather than ‘spending less’, how about ‘spending better’?

Perhaps that picture is rather too rosy and wishful thinking – especially as I also have a rather more pessimistic voice in my head saying “but our population is just too large for that”. But it does bring me to another point of apparent paradox and change of heart.

The irony, you see, is that for several years now I have been saying that we should spend less. And while I still believe that we should definitely spend more within our means than we have been, we still DO need to spend otherwise nobody will make any money and none of us will have any jobs!

My own optimistic prediction or horoscope for the five years ahead, therefore, will be:

• Initially we can expect more business closures and redundancies… more economic and financial uncertainty… desperate measures by flailing politicians… and surprise events that nobody can predict such as high interest rates perhaps and inflation.

• Positive eventual change lead by people demanding new values in life – rather than government trying to use artificial means to motivate this abstract and artificial notion we call ‘the economy’.

• More people actually enjoying the work they do.

• People working less hours and enjoying more quality of life.

• A positive change in our relationship with money. Rather than a reason for stress or a means to a plasma TV end, it is a currency we can use to share the fruits of progress between us and network our talents and enthusiasm in a more positive way.

But back to the Year of the Ox…

The Ox, I read, is the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work. The Year of the Ox tends to bring honesty, more modesty, a return to traditions and values and a calm desire for creative labour and honest rewards.

According to the Hong Kong feng shui master Raymond Lo quoted on Reuters last week, the world of finance can expect a calmer and more subdued year in 2009:

“This year of the Ox is an ‘earth’ year, when people will take a breather and reflect on what they should do after a turbulent 2008,” he said. Practitioners of feng shui maintain the universe is made up of five elements – earth, water, fire, wood and metal – that define the collective mood in our environment. Earth is the calmest of the elements and this year is a “yin earth” year as well as an Ox year, symbolizing a more feminine energy, says Lo.

The Year of the Ox, which started on January 26, will be the most peaceful year globally since 2000.

The serenity of the Ox will ease us out of recession

Another interesting source I found noted that the last time the earth Ox was seen as the ruling influence was January 29th 1949 to February 15th 1950. Having suffered a recession in late 1948 and early 1949, the world economy recovered during the year of the Ox due to rational decisions and careful planning.

This time round, rather than looking to the government for careful planning and rational decisions, I have the feeling that the change will come from the people of the nation.

And I do weirdly find this whole peace and hard homely work thing permeating me already. What else would have driven me to spend most evenings of the last two weeks happily sewing curtains while listening to Radio 3 interviews?

I hope the Chinese Year of the Ox turns out to be a positive one for you – whatever trials it may bring.

All the best

Wendy Churchill
Life is a Bag of Revels

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