“Structure without life is dead. But Life without
structure is un-seen.”
-John Cage, Virgo
from Lecture on Nothing
Our experience with Virgos is not about timeliness.
Our experience with Virgos is not about lists.
Our experience with Virgos is not about neatness,
“It’s back to school time.”
We all think about Virgos in this way. At least off the top of our heads. Organized, analytical, helpful, skeptical, fastidious, persnickety, and (not quite) pure, we think about Virgos like we think of syllabi: refreshing, but complex lists.
What we forget though, about Virgo, our teen earth sign–– both mutable and mercurial–– is that Virgo season is not just back to school.
(Everyone forces Virgo into fall, no one lets Pisces be Spring)
Virgo season isn’t the fall, but a fall. Virgo season is a transition. It’s the end of something too. Not just back to school, but the scramble. It’s spending the whole day packing, and then minding five hours in the car or the airport terminal on the last day of vacation; it’s the crowded ritual of examining every aisle in Staples for the perfect funky but classic three ring binder and college ruled paper and a new TI 83 Plus; it’s the insurmountable task of completing an entire summer’s worth of assignments for College Level French, AP US History, and AP Statistics, in three days and two nights, while a rolling thunderstorm reverberates from out the window.
Virgos live in a state of inevitable free fall toward the celestial equator. Virgos contain both equanimity and decay. Libras do too. But while Libras hold onto the equinox, and must lose their balance to have it at all (or nothing at all), Virgos contain and behold the burden of always landing on their feet.
Nothing is more sacred to a Virgo than priorities.
“We’re all creatures of habit.”
award winning chef & Virgo
who eats at Pret A Manger
approximately 4x / week.
Wylie Dufresne, pioneer of molecular gastronomy, has engineered the perfect breakfast sandwich. This innovation is available at Dufresne’s latest venture (his “retirement” from Michelin star fare at wd~50 and Alder), Du’s Donuts–– a casual but fastidious donut shop, located inside the William Vale hotel, near the Williamsburg waterfront (a mall at the end of the world).
Imagine: a grilled cheese wrapped in tight waxy paper, like a true bodega sandwich. When pulled out of its covering, this sandwich gives the impression that it has been vacuum sealed…in a bespoke way. An extraordinary pocket. Take a bite into this sandwich: white bread filled with two pillowy scrambled eggs and gooey American cheese (and add bacon, if you’d like). Upon finishing, immediately want a second and a third and a fourth. There is a desire to be eternally sated by this, this thing that is both a grilled cheese and an egg and cheese; this thing that is from both the most primal moments of childhood and deep in the future.
How did Wylie pull off this remarkable mindfuck? Well, he's a Virgo.
Virgos can execute anything. If they put their mind to it. But Virgos only put their mind to it if it is worth it, and they only put their mind to it if it is love.
Wylie loves bodega breakfast sandwiches.
Amy Winehouse loved singing.
John Cage loved silence.
A Virgo who loves you will hire an entire excavation and landscaping team to move a mountain and get to you, but only if the love is real. And real to a Virgo means that the love must be useful to them, or at least useful to the greater world at large at that very moment, which must start with them. Virgos are solution oriented. And if a Virgo doesn’t love you, they will ignore you.
Remember, the nature of a Virgo is not about timeliness. Virgos will also flake–– not just on something small, on something important! But on something that, to them, is not important enough. In the same way a Pisces fucks up by being overly generous, a Virgo fucks up by being overly selfish. These things are adjacent points on a circle, culminating ends of the continuum.
Virgos love to cancel as much as they love to plan. Wylie Dufresne (as told to T Magazine), keeps a binder clip of punch cards to his favorite bourgie coffee shops (no bad coffee) in his shirt pocket. Each day, he seeks “two meaningful coffee experiences.” Upon arrival at his favorite coffee shops though, he will start a timer, and if he has to wait more than 8 minutes for his treat, he will leave. A savage persnicketiness, but, Wylie is right.
Virgos make selfish choices, because if they didn’t, there would be no excellence.
Like the love of a Virgo, the creatiivity of a Virgo is uncompromising.
“I know it sounds a bit wanky but I can’t even work with someone unless they know more about music than me. I have to learn from them or it’s pointless.”
-Amy Winehouse, Virgo
If we return to the incorrect idea that a Virgo is a refreshing list, Amy Winehouse’s Virgo identity surprises us. She is a Virgo remembered less for her structure and more for her fall. But we must look closely at what Amy was trying to do, what she was trying to solve. Amy Winehouse’s love for music and singing is so clear in her meticulous and irreverent attention to phrasing, her perfunctory technique, and the scope of her croon. As Anthony Lane noted for The New Yorker, “[Amy] learned or pilfered as much from artists like Theolonius Monk as she did from other singers…[S]he was an entire brass section, melted down and poured into one small frame.”
Amy wasn’t a dedicated practitioner of jazz, Amy was an instrument. A trumpet. A vessel.
John Cage wrote,
“ Everybody has a song
which is no song at all:
it is a process of singing
and when you sing ,
you are where you are .”
Even Amy’s hair had a disheveled, but precise structure. Amy was a reliable shape. Too reliable. Caught in a bout of insecurity or vice or myopia, a Virgo continues to fall, but is unable to seek solutions. Or worse, becomes the problem. Or even worse, has nothing left to fix. Equanimity has become decay and decay, equanimity. Fallen Virgo, we say. But Virgos always fall. And Virgos always land. It’s about where they land. Amy Winehouse knew the shape she needed to hold to provide a solution, and as time went on, this shape became more and more unsustainable, until she could no longer land among us. But her shape is still with us: Amy’s voice gave structure to her larger-than-life heart.
Listen to her sing “Lullaby of Birdland,” her pronunciation and tone blending seamlessly with the brass section behind her, like the saxophone, gliding into drowsy emphasis.
Watch a video of Amy in 2007, at a lowkey AOL “The DL” session. She sits with perfect posture on an artichoke green leather chair, hands in her lap, hair in her classic beehive. Microphone in the center, with some light hand drumming and an acoustic guitar, she channels the songs. “They tried to make me go…”
Watch the video of Amy summoning the title track of Back to Black, in the studio with Mark Ronson. It flows out effortlessly. “Oh, it’s a bit upsetting at the end, isn’t it?” she muses, leaving the booth whistling. She does this like it’s nothing.
Because it was nothing.
For a Virgo, there is no greater relief than being nothing: living inside of the list, flying above the neatness, floating on the precision. These are all givens. These are all nothing. To live inside something and do it and make it happen is nothing. To work is nothing, to love is nothing, to embody is nothing.
“ All I know about method is that when I am not working I sometimes think I know something, but when I am working, it is quite clear that I know nothing. ”
A Virgo smiles after moving a mountain, “Oh that? No worries. That was nothing.”
Originally published in moon missives: summer.