August 01st, 2012

Gore Vidal: The Best Man

“We need someone like Gore Vidal present in the country all the time. He is a true gay role model, a man of culture and learning and style who represents the best of a worldliness that is conspicuously lacking today. With his courtly manner, Vidal is a patrician throwback. I love his acerbic, waspish style. His fearlessness. The bold attacks.” — Camille Paglia
“For Vidal, the world was both subject and spectacle, and in his inability to reconcile these two perspectives, his point of view was forged.” David L. Ulin

Growing up gay in a dreadful Southern California suburb was made bearable for me after I discovered Gore Vidal in the early 1970s. I was around 14 and would disobey my parents and watch The Dick Cavett Show (or late into the night, Johnny Carson) where Vidal would appear and ignite intelligent, scintillating conversation with the hosts.

I recall seeing Vidal on Carson once where he explained how absurd it was that humans shit in the same water that they eventually drank. He’d come on the show to advocate developing a more sane approach to sewage, I forget the details, but his passionate rationality impressed me like crazy. Not just his rationality but his certainty about his rightness was beguiling. There was a way to be ‘right’ without being an asshole (a style which was opposite that of my father’s), and that made a bigger impression on me.

I don’t think I consciously knew Vidal was gay (or as he would define it: the practitioner of homosexual acts). Vidal wrote: “There is no such thing as a homosexual or a heterosexual person. There are only homo — or heterosexual acts. Most people are a mixture of impulses if not practices.” But as a budding queer I did respond to him as the sort of adult male I wanted to emulate. He was informed, stylish, wry and not possessed by a bitchy, negative anima complex. As soon as I could I began to read Vidal’s writing — understanding perhaps 60% of it at the time. (I just felt smarter knowing that I was making the effort). For me, his finest form was the essay — a clear parade of searing syntax that flowed, like lava, right from the center of his glowing brain.

Speaking of glowing, Vidal’s Mars was conjunct his Sun in Libra, with Mercury there as well. And this trio shown fiercely and revealed a lot of truth.

If you find someone with the Sun conjunct Mars in their horoscope you have an excellent opportunity to understand all of the permutations of that particular Sun sign, every bit of its essence. Mars projects all of the Sun’s light and shadow. And this is doubly true for Libra, where opposites — light and shadow, masculine and feminine (ever notice how hetero Libra men always come off as gay?), solitude and companionship — are in a continual dance, always on the verge of merging, but not quite. To do so would be to lose the objectivity Librans take pride in possessing. And so the dance rages. The high ideal always being chased or fought for.

Libra individuals live above the frick and frack of quotidian life (as Gore did most of his life, high up on a cliff in an Italian villa). Not to say that they avoid engagement, but psychologically they never land fully into a relationship or battle. The symbol of the scales is neither human nor animal. Librans are a Platonic concept made flesh; guardians of ideals, upholders of truth, that engage in the circle of life but are not part of it; they are here to remind the rest of us that we’re more than animals with a neocortex (or worse sub-animals and an embarrassment to the species). We’ve higher callings, like beauty. Like truth. Like eventually learning to think like Librans do.

Vidal demonstrated this quality repeatedly in his art. He would argue and pontificate from a Promethean-like perspective and conjure cutting observations and ethics. Because humanity is actually a roiling cauldron of conflicting impulses and emotions, Vidal’s opinions could appear unrealistic, bombastic or even anachronistic, but such is the case when you’re attempting to champion a pure concept like justice or equality. Or as relates to our deranged culture: sanity.

I’ve never understood the notion that Librans are peace lovers — it’s astro hockum, usually attributed to Venus, the sign’s ruler, which, if you study Vedic astrology you know is a bit of a demon. Librans are argumentative but that’s part of their function, their contribution to the whole. They want to work within and acknowledge the full spectrum of possibilities, and always present ‘the other side.’ This trait was evident in Vidal’s relationship with the terrorist Timothy McVeigh. You may not have agreed with Vidal’s defense of McVeigh, but you learned a tremendous amount about McVeigh’s motivation as a militia movement sympathizer, as well as the atrocities related to the Waco siege that tripped McVeigh’s delusion.

Want the truth about something? Ask a Libra. They will challenge you and supply reality checks that make a Capricorn’s feedback seem tepid and insincere. “Truth as beauty” is the ultimate Libran ideal, but only when that truth is absolute and not relative or, worse, a passing trend. Vidal’s ‘above it all’ stance served him well, kept him vital and energized deep into his old age. He seemed to be following the wisdom of another notorious Libra, Aleister Crowley, who wrote: “The joy of life consists in the exercise of one’s energies, continual growth, constant change, the enjoyment of every new experience. To stop means simply to die. The eternal mistake of mankind is to set up an attainable ideal.”

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Filed Under: Astrology and Passages