and ups and downs are not frightening. Neither are anger or fear, love or hate. But these things are distressing to the more rational types, who can't cope with their own changing emotions. Water is also an incredibly subtle element. Nothing is simply black or white to the water signs. If you watch a typical television western of a decade ago, you can see the kind of values which air signs make: there are good guys and bad guys. To water, things aren't that simple. Good guys often have a secret bad streak, and bad guys are capable of acts of nobility. To water, people are complex and must be taken as they are, not as one would ideally like to think they ought to be. In this way, the water signs are the most realistic of all - that is, about human nature. They may not make a great noise about it. But they know. No person is wholly one thing.
There is a kind of relative quality about the values of the water signs because of this. They may have strong likes or dislikes - and this is one of their typical characteristics. Water people tend to react instantly to others. Yes, I like him. No, I don't. Often they can't explain why. Here's a typical air-water dialogue:
AIR: Well, what did you think of my brother?
WATER: I don't like him.
AIR: Don't like him? But he's my brother. Why not?
WATER: I don't know. I just don't like him. I'd prefer not to see much of him. There's just something about him.
AIR: What do you mean, 'Something about him'? What kind of remark is that? You must have a reason. Look, he's a really decent guy. He's always helped me when I've been in trouble. He gives a lot of money to charity, and votes labour. He's good to his kids, and faithful to his wife. How can you not like him?
WATER: I just don't like him, okay? I don't care what he does or doesn't do. I'm sorry he's your brother. I don't think he's very honest. Maybe it's his shoes. I don't know.
AIR: What a silly, irrational thing to say.
Silly and irrational. This is generally the attitude more radical people give when the water signs produce their instant feeling judgments. But water is democratic enough to know that his own response is not a universal one. Most water signs won't say 'He's an evil person.' They'll own up to the fact that it's their own feelings. It's just, 'I don't like him.' And that's that.
Feelings have their own logic, however. And the values of the water signs are just as complex, just as subtle, just as carefully built of associations and nuances as the theories and ideas of the air signs. It's just that the process doesn't take place in their heads. It occurs, in popular jargon, in the gut. Usually the water person isn't aware of the process. The whole intricate mechanism of establishing a set of values and measuring something against those values, takes place somewhere in the depths of the psyche. They don't know why. They just feel, one thing or another. Pleasant or unpleasant, beautiful or ugly, comfortable or uncomfortable: it's like the result coming up in the little window in the computer. The figuring is done inside, through processes which defy the intellect. The infuriating things is that they're usually right in their assessments.
Another facet of this peculiar ability to 'sniff out' the feeling quality of a person or a situation is a thing which we call taste. Now, taste is a very difficult thing to define. It connects up with all kinds of things like aesthetics and art and beauty. These are so hopelessly relative that you can get into a good flaming row about it any time. Taste is a deeply personal matter. But good taste seems to be something that the water signs possess in abundance. But knowledge of the theories of aesthetics often produces monstrous tastes.
I once attended a lecture with slides about the work produced by a particular school of art - by the artists' definition - were primarily comments on social and political states. They made powerful and important statements about the depersonalization of urban society, the oppression of the working-class, and other ideological attitudes. They