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Free Will Astro;ogy

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Given the untamed impulses that are now erupting within you, I should remind you to use a knife, fork and spoon when you're eating in the company of other people (though it's fine to shovel it in with your fingers when you're alone). Another suggestion: If you're overtaken by the urge to guffaw or yell triumphantly, try not to do it right in the face of the person sitting next to you. Finally, if you jump up on the dinner table to dance or belt out a song, please avoid stepping on your fellow diners' plates. Other than that, Aries, I'd like to give you pretty much free rein to express yourself without inhibition this week.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Every square mile of our planet has been thoroughly explored, right? Wrong. Vast expanses of the ocean floor, amounting to two-and-a-half times the size of the Earth's land masses, remain a secret. The situation reminds me of you, Taurus. As much as you think you know about yourself, the uncharted areas of your psyche are far larger than the places you've mapped. I mention this because it's an excellent time, from an astrological perspective, to plumb your mysterious depths. Somewhere in there, a New World awaits discovery.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Is it possible, as Marshall McLuhan (cq) theorized, that we become what we behold? I find some big grains of truth in that idea. That's why I believe you should be vigilant about what scenes you allow to pour in through both your physical eyes and your mind's eye — especially now, when you're more suggestible than usual. There's another step you can take to safeguard yourself, Gemini, and that's to sharpen your perceptions. Beneath all the ugliness out there is a lot of well-hidden beauty. So look deeper and clearer. Listen closer and softer. Touch slower and wilder.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): You really should buy yourself a new Lexus. Owning a luxury car will make you feel great about yourself. To pump up your self-esteem even further, surround yourself with starry-eyed admirers and show off your superior intelligence with snide witticisms about wimpy scapegoats. Won't it be fun to strut and crow for a change? Ha! Did you fall for my disinformation, Cancer? I was testing you — seeing if you're susceptible to lies and hype that pander to the superficial parts of your ego. The planetary omens have alerted me to the possibility that you'll be led astray by sweet-talking manipulators. Your false pride may even be threatening to overthrow your soul's confidence. Solution: Make skepticism your ally; be cheerfully humble.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Was I really the Greek philosopher Socrates in my past life, as has been rumored on the Internet? Nah. I was merely his student. But my time with the great teacher did endow me with a highly developed capacity for asking questions. And that could come in handy for you. Ready to find the answers you need? Here goes. What is the creation that most defines who you are now? What creation will most define who you are two years from today? Have you worked your buts (cq) off in order to nurture the forms of self-expression you love? (Please note: That does not say "butts," but rather "buts," as in the plural of the excuse-ridden word "but.") In 2001, are you willing to strive harder than ever before to nurture the forms of self-expression you love? Why or why not?

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Turns out there's even a bit of virgin forest in America's biggest, loudest city. It's at the upper tip of Manhattan, near the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum. If you're a New Yawker who lives within 20 miles of that oasis, I urge you to steep yourself in its pristine vibe this week. All the rest of you Virgos, please find an equivalent sanctuary in your own neck of the woods. In my astrological opinion, you need to do more than merely flirt with the great outdoors in the weeks and months to come. To dig up the intuitions that will seed your success in 2001, you should regenerate your link with primeval nature.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): I once interviewed a rodeo clown-turned-pro miniature golfer who could recite the Bhagavad Gita by heart while shooting holes-in-one with a blindfold on. I've played strip backgammon with the woman president of an anti-animal-nudity activist group "Society for Indecency to Naked Animals." I have bid at an auction where a 1975 Ford Escort formerly owned by the Pope sold for $102,000. But none of these weird wonders prepared me for this week's incredible spectacle: millions of Libras telling everyone in their lives, "I don't care what you want me to do or what you think of me, because this time I'm going to do what I damn well please."

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): "From the moment we enter school or church," says Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano (cq), "education chops us into pieces: It teaches us to divorce soul from body and mind from heart." I would add that most of us come to terms with this schizophrenic state through numbness and denial. Though it always distorts our lives, right now it's causing special pain for you Scorpios. Alas, none of our familiar cultural traditions offer a remedy. If you hope to unify your fragments — and this is prime time to try — I suggest you look for help in these three ways: feisty conversations with your higher self, homemade prayers to the most playful version of God you can imagine or consultations with teachers and literature that are so far outside the mainstream that they're virtually secret.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): I know a Sagittarius woman with an abundance of raw courage. She skydives and hang-glides. She has risked arrest by abusive cops during World Trade Organization protests and trekked the jungles of Guatemala alone. On the other hand, she steadfastly avoids facing her inner demons. Instead, she projects them onto friends and acquaintances and then banishes those people from her life. This psychological cowardice has become more invisible to her as she has grown more daring in her physical exploits. The bad news, dear Centaur, is that many of your tribe suffer from a milder version of this imbalance. The good news is that the coming months will bring rich opportunities to correct the problem. The glorious transformation can start with the meditations you hatch this week.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Many people are under the impression that discussing a problem is the same thing as doing something about it. Not you, though. You have a deserved reputation as a man or woman of action. Walking your talk is your specialty. I would like to note, however, that every now and then, discussing a problem is actually better than doing something about it. An uninhibited exchange of ideas and feelings, when done in a setting where mutual tolerance rules, can dissolve a logjam so thoroughly that no other adjustment is necessary. Now is such a time, Capricorn.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): How could you possibly be ahead of your time but behind in your schedule? You tell me. Maybe you're afraid to stop procrastinating, because that would put you even further ahead of your time. And you have already endured enough rejection from people who aren't ready for your innovations. Let's face it: The majority will always prefer future schlock to future shock. But are you man enough or woman enough to decide here and now that you'll no longer let the lowest common denominator hold you back? There's never been a better time to gather allies who love you to dream your most visionary dreams.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Dear Gorgeous Force of Nature: As one of the emissaries assigned the lucky task of ensuring that you get all the gifts you deserve, I'm happy to announce the imminent arrival of a big, hot batch. Please don't feel the least bit guilty about receiving so many blessings, and don't you dare indulge in the slightest shyness about raking them all in. You may sometimes fantasize that you're being unduly rewarded, but I assure you that you have thoroughly earned every boost of sweetness that will be coming your way. Love, The Ambassador of Delight. Send me a parable that captures what your life has been like in 2000 to

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