Free Will Astrology: Week of December 16 

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ARIES (March 21-April 19): The Neanderthals were a different human species that co-existed with our ancestors, homo sapiens, for at least 5,000 years. But they eventually died out while our people thrived. Why? One reason, says science writer Marcus Chown, is that we alone invented sewing needles. Our newborn babies had well-made clothes to keep them warm and healthy through frigid winters. Neanderthal infants, covered with ill-fitting animal skins, had a lower survival rate. Chown suggests that although this provided us with a mere one percent survival advantage, that turned out to be significant. I think you're ready to find and use a small yet ultimately crucial edge like that over your competitors, Aries.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Artist Robert Barry created "30 Pieces," an installation that consisted of pieces of paper on which he had typed the following statement: "Something which is very near in place and time, but not yet known to me." According to my reading of the astrological omens, this theme captures the spirit of the phase you're now entering. But I think it will evolve in the coming weeks. First it'll be "Something which is very near in place and time, and is becoming known to me." By mid-January it could turn into "Something which is very near and dear, and has become known to me."

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): "There is in every one of us, even those who seem to be most moderate, a type of desire that is uncanny, wild, and lawless." Greek philosopher Plato wrote that in his book The Republic, and I'm bringing it to your attention just in time for your Season of Awakening and Deepening Desire. The coming days will be a time when you can, if you choose, more fully tune in to the uncanny, wild, and lawless aspects of your primal yearnings. But wait a minute! I'm not suggesting you should immediately take action to gratify them. For now, just feel them and observe them. Find out what they have to teach you. Wait until the new year before you consider the possibility of expressing them.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Congratulations! You have broken all your previous records for doing boring tasks that are good for you. In behalf of the other eleven signs, I thank you for your heroic, if unexciting, campaign of self-improvement. You have not only purified your emotional resources and cleared out some breathing room for yourself, but you have also made it easier for people to help you and feel close to you. Your duty has not yet been completed, however. There are a few more details to take care of before the gods of healthy tedium will be finished with you. But start looking for signs of your big chance to make a break for freedom. They'll arrive soon.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): The English word "fluke" means "lucky stroke." It was originally used in the game of billiards when a player made a good shot that he or she wasn't even trying to accomplish. Later its definition expanded to include any fortuitous event that happens by chance rather than because of skill: good fortune generated accidentally. I suspect that you are about to be the beneficiary of what may seem to be a series of flukes, Leo. In at least one case, though, your lucky break will have been earned by the steady work you've done without any fanfare.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): You may not have to use a literal crowbar in the coming weeks, but this rough tool will serve you well as a metaphor. Wherever you go, imagine that you've got one with you. Why? It's time to jimmy open glued-shut portals . . . to pry loose mental blocks . . . to coax unyielding influences to budge . . . to nudge intransigent people free of their fixations. Anything that is stuck or jammed needs to get unstuck or unjammed through the power of your willful intervention.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): The coming weeks will be a favorable time for you to consort with hidden depths and unknown riches. In every way you can imagine, I urge you to go deeper down and further in. Cultivate a more conscious connection with the core resources you sometimes take for granted. This is one time when delving into the darkness can lead you to pleasure and treasure. As you explore, keep in mind this advice from author T. Harv Eker: "In every forest, on every farm, in every orchard on earth, what's under the ground creates what's above the ground. That's why placing your attention on the fruits you have already grown is futile. You can't change the fruits that are already hanging on the tree. But you can change tomorrow's fruits. To do so, you will have to dig below the ground and strengthen the roots."

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): In the coming weeks, the pursuit of pleasure could drain your creative powers, diminish your collaborative possibilities, and wear you out. But it's also possible that the pursuit of pleasure will enhance your creative powers, synergize your alliances, and lead you to new opportunities. Which way will you go? It all depends on the kinds of pleasures you pursue. The dumb, numbing, mediocre type will shrink your soul. The smart, intriguing, invigorating variety will expand your mind. Got all that? Say "hell, no" to trivializing decadence so you can say "wow, yes" to uplifting bliss.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Garnets are considered less valuable than diamonds. But out in the wild, there's an intimate connection between these two gemstones. Wherever you find garnets near the surface of the earth, you can be reasonably sure that diamonds are buried deeper down in the same location. Let's use this relationship as a metaphor for your life, Sagittarius. I suspect you have recently chanced upon a metaphorical version of garnets, or will do so soon. Maybe you should make plans to search for the bigger treasure towards which they point the way.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Ready for the Cool Anger Contest? You can earn maximum points by expressing your dissatisfaction in ways that generate the most constructive transformations. Bonus points will be awarded for your ability to tactfully articulate complicated feelings, as well as for your emotionally intelligent analyses that inspire people to respond empathetically rather than defensively. What are the prizes? First prize is a breakthrough in your relationship with an ally who could be crucial to your expansion in 2016. Second prize is a liberation from one of your limiting beliefs.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): A fourth-century monk named Martin was a pioneer wine-maker in France. He founded the Marmoutier Abbey and planted vineyards on the surrounding land. According to legend, Martin's donkey had a crucial role in lifting viticulture out of its primitive state. Midway through one growing season, the beast escaped its tether and nibbled on a lot of the grapevines. All the monks freaked out, fearing that the crop was wrecked. But ultimately the grapes grew better than they had in previous years, and the wine they produced was fabulous. Thus was born the practice of pruning, which became de rigueur for all grape-growers. What's your equivalent of Martin's donkey, Aquarius? I bet it'll exert its influence very soon.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): "The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important," said educator John Dewey. If that's true, Pisces, you are on the verge of having your deepest urge fulfilled more than it has in a long time. The astrological alignments suggest that you are reaching the peak of your value to other people. You're unusually likely to be seen and appreciated and acknowledged for who you really are. If you have been underestimating your worth, I doubt you will be able to continue doing so. Here's your homework: Take a realistic inventory of the ways your life has had a positive impact on the lives of people you have known.

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