Circles… and cycles

Watching it… watching the world go by… I’ve been watching it for nearly fifty years, paying attention in varying degrees depending on where I am in my life cycle. And I’ve started paying attention again recently…

It strikes me, more and more, that the observation “What goes around, comes around” is just way too true.

The use of ‘circles’ and ‘cycles’ in literature as metaphor for the natural order of things has been a fairly common practice. In fact, one can first see the use of the circle/cycle in ancient mythologies… nature as a cycle of birth>>maturation>>death>>rebirth. Most agrarian cultures throughout the world identified phases of the life cycle and developed rituals of celebration and supplication for the important phases… and some of it got kinda nasty, with varying degrees of sacrifice and other stuff that I won’t go into here, at least for the moment. But let it just stand that the mythologies or fledgling religions were concerned with the cyclical nature of their experience…

Even the Greeks and Romans incorporated the birth/rebirth cycle into their religious observances. Demeter and her patient wait for the return of Persephone from the Underworld to announce Spring is just another attempt to explain, quantify and take the mystery out of the cycles of nature. Each culture has made the attempt to demystify the seasons, to explain the unexplainable existence of the universal lifeforce. Or would it be a more accurate statement to say that those societies tried to explain the magic and give it an even greater place of honour by wrapping it in stories rife with personifications that reflected the foibles and imperfections of their own lives?

Once you get past the basis of their mythologies, their early dramas also contained significant symbolism based on the concept of cycles and understanding of the interdependancies at work. Cause and effect became part of the cycle. And with each new ’cause’ the cycle wobbles and extends, and grows and evolves. Our ancestors’ mythologies went from explaining why the weather was bad (“Oops! We forgot to sacrifice the virgin this year!”) to attempting to define and teach concepts of morality (“What do ya mean if I kill my father and sleep with my mother, my luck will turn bad?”). We grow… as individuals and as societies.

Each generation still needs to return to visit the ground already covered. Fashion is full of graphic examples of the generations mimicking each other…

Eventually, as language developed, some bright thinker coined the phrase “What goes around, comes around”. And it truly does seem to… historians are constantly reminding us. “There is nothing new under the sun”. “He who does not learn from history is condemned to repeat its mistakes”.

But with each passing ‘cycle’, we move forward, sometimes incrementally, sometimes with great strides, sometimes with the sedate plodding of the tortoise, and sometimes with the erratic bursts of the hare. Each cycle adds a bit of something to the development of society, contributing to society’s evolution, effecting change. Unfortunately, it is not always for the better… which is always a debatable point. Growth, development, change is always good; stagnation is the worst thing that could happen to us. That stagnation hits us all at some point in our lives, but rarely do the societies of the world slow to stall point.

And now as I tally up a half century of experiences, the cycle has my attention for a few wobbling rotations… watching it.

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