Cycles of Life
Today’s Daily Paradox is written by my No 1 son, Rev’d Richard Bittleston
There are so many mysteries in life – no shortage of things to wonder about. I was watching the last of the Hollyhock flowers drop in the garden. Hollyhocks are remarkable clocks. The lowest flowers appear first, the highest drop last. Our garden (lovingly tended by Anne – my principal contribution being to enjoy it) is sky high in hollyhocks. They thrive in the modest space.
So do sparrows (I’ve seen 14 sitting on the wall). Competition for the bird feeders means that orderly queues form as several species negotiate a pecking space. It’s the perfect space to see the cycle of seasons acting out in detail; so much going on that you can trace the changes by the day.
When cycles are comparatively short, we human beings have little problem understanding that living and dying is not just a natural – but also – a beautiful process. Sigmund Freud (one of many) observed that the beauty of a flower was framed by its transience. We can enjoy this beauty all the more because we experience its ‘going out and coming in’.
Is all life cyclical? Eastern philosophies frame a great deal in terms of cycles. The universe itself is a cycle. Human life is a cycle (reincarnation). Western thought has always been rather more linear, and I rather suspect that this lies at the heart of a growing dissatisfaction with life. Depression seems to go hand in hand with the notion that our purpose is to get somewhere (a good education, a good job, a decent retirement etc.).
We stop seeing the beauty in the transience of things because we’re always trying to get to somewhere safe. Appreciating the cycles that make up life – including the cycle we have most trouble with – the cycle of our life – gives us a precious perspective.
In Ecclesiastes, it’s put so perfectly as “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven” Reminding ourselves that life depends on cycles can be frightening – “this too, will pass” but it can be very liberating.
In the Taoist tradition they speak of grasping water in your hand – the tighter you grasp, the less you can hold.