There’s Lots More Steps

Cycles, Spirals and Stairs: Mixing Metaphors Toward a New World View


I used to think the events of the world played out like the movement of a pendulum: extreme swings from one fanatical or reactionary or prejudicial pole to another with brief moments of rest, when sanity and progress prevail. I used to think these in-between moments were the opportunities for humanity to take the next steps in advancing to the summit of human achievement, to move higher toward the apex of enlightenment.

But the pendulum never seems to rest. Something always keeps it swinging, and lately its inevitable sweeps, each a reactionary swing away from a centered state, brings to mind the slicing arcs of Edgar Allen Poe’s terrifying machine. It’s quite a cynical philosophy, I’ve decided, so lately I’m trying out a different world view; one with more positive potential.

It’s not pendulum swings, it’s cycles. Cycles and spirals. The events in our lives and in the course of history (wars, disappointments, petty slights – name your favorite ills) come around again and again in a repeating orbit of ‘same old, same old’-ness, digging the orbital groove of habitual, repeated response deeper with each turning.  What if, in the centrifugal power generated by the cycle, the path could shift a bit and initiate a spiral outward, toward a different destination – a different destiny?  Rather than a ring that binds, think of

the chambered nautilus, stock-photo-51978066-nautilus-shell-patternFibonacci’s golden sequence, th (2)the un-furling frond of the (3)

In a karmic sense, “What goes around comes around” may be true and may even serve some sort of just purpose. But these karmic ‘turnings’ may also offer the chance to grow, choose differently, break the cycle. When the cycle repeats, the next orbit launches, when the button gets pushed, can we hear a different bell? Open a different door? Stop for a moment and imagine a different response?  Can we urge the circle/cycle/orbit into a spiral that reaches up and out,  toward a more humane response, a more evolved reaction, a more enlightened way of being?

I attached a Gahan Wilson cartoon from The New Yorker at the top of this post.  It was pinned up in my office at work for many years and now lies under the glass on my desk top near my computer as a constant reminder that there are many more steps ahead and I need to keep climbing.  In my own lengthening string of cycles, I am in the hard process of accepting that my personal orbit around the wheel will eventually decay. In truth, this probably has already begun. The question I ask myself now is, can I see and understand my own repeating cycles? And when the unproductive ones come around again, can I respond differently at the turning?


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