Living at odds with life

Living at odds with life

Here's one to think about!

We are all on a journey; but our perception of that journey might be a little misleading.

Our natural tendency is to define our journeys as in terms of their beginning and their ends. We depart place A and arrive at place B. It is a linear journey, a steady progress along the line that joins A to B. However, if we were to map this journey on a globe and project forward from B (or continue our journey) we will eventually return once again to where we started.

When described thus, the line becomes a circle. And the limited linear definition is no more that an arc mapped upon the circumference of that circle. Notwithstanding the protestations of some flat earthers, we all live on a spherical globe (or technically an oblate globe).

It cycles through 360 degrees every 24 hours – passing from night to day, and back to night, and on. It is not the repeated daily journey once believed of Helios and his fiery horses from the eastern horizon to the western.

And as the we are busy spinning around, the moon cycles around us, we are cycled every 29.5 days by the moon. Its gravitational influence shapes so many of life’s cycles. Together we cycle the sun.

Then we might focus back onto our planet and focus upon its abundant cycles, the scientific cycles of elements and nutrients, the geological cycle of crustal creation and subduction, the water cycle, and the seasonal cycles of growth and die back.

In these cycles there is what  Robin Wall Kimmerer calls “The chain of reciprocity” in her book “Braiding Sweetgrass”  – there is the gift, the gratitude and the return. The giving of the gift protects life, imagine the Scrub Jay or the Squirrel burying seeds for winter. Each of these burials carry both the potential of nutritional benefit of energy through the dark months, but also of new life. Those seeds not retrieved may grow into tomorrow’s trees.

Yet we choose to live in the linear.

Stuck on the straight line

We are tied up with our journeys. Lives focused on bounded A to Bs. Whether they be physical places or settlements, the uneducated to educated, the incompetent to competent, the project from planning to delivery and from birth to death.

Our straight lines are exploitative – they have little respect for that which is not upon the critical path. That which precedes or post-dates completion is not in context. It is not of value. And that which forms the wider environment is just noise and distraction. In this way things exist for nothing more that their benefit for our journey. Do we consider those downstream when dam or dump sewage in the headwaters of a river system?

Once were the times that farmers protected the seed crop of their harvest for the next years planting, now the seed crop is largely meant to be repurchased each year, and it is often infertile. Proprietary life subtly adjusted such that it can live alongside the targeted chemical control of unwanted growth. Again, we force the linear onto the cyclical.

These limitations also constrain our political democracy, once in power the importance in that period in power. Long-term investment whose return is a decade hence is of little value to the short-term political capital of this governmental period. If we spend too much on the future, if we reach out to others, we might compromise our relationship with those upon whom the longevity their seat in power persists.

We can kick the can down the road. Leave that problem for someone else. Or discard it, because we perceive we are leaving that problem in the past as we move forward to our more golden future.

But as it is said “what goes around, comes around.” As we said at the outset in a world of cycles when we continue that journey, we eventually return to where we once started. What would do differently on our journey from A to B if we really acknowledged that once again, we will be back at A.

We are in practice though living in conflict with life.

Coming back around again

And so, this is the paradox. The limited perception of our journeys never looks beyond its boundaries of its intention.

We have already reminded ourselves of the cycles that persist around us. In perceiving ourselves on every achieving straight line from birth to death we bound the importance of life to frame of our existence, but there is more.

When we attend a Christian funeral the hear the celebrant speak of “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…” We thus recognise the cycle of our physical existence. Plato, the father of rational western thought told of the Myth of Er, which tells us about the Fates and their assessment of our soul’s journey after death in the Spindle of Necessity. Similarly, Osiris weighing the soul against a feather and thus determines it fate and next manifestation, or in eastern religions we see the progress of karmic journey of the soul from life to life determined by the learning that it has achieved or needs to experience.

Even the traditional stories and myths that we tell are framed within cycles, Joseph Campbell captured this in The Hero’s Journey, a cycle of threat and risk, but for all these challenges, we return to whence we came, wiser and enriched for that which we have faced and learned in the process. Similarly, these challenges in the cycle of life are captured in the cards of the Major Arcana in Tarot.

If we are open to it – each of us are part of a cycle. Our lives coming back around again. We are part of nature, not separate from it. We live within it and are dependent upon its cycles. There is no start, there is always something before, and there is no end, life has its way, it continues.

Given enough time we all come around and find ourselves or some representation of ourselves back at that place where we once perceived that we were taking the first step.

As I said at the beginning: "Here's one to think about!"


Note: I do not own, or claim to own, the images used in this blog