Saturday, December 26, 2009

Circular, not Linear!





One of the myths that we so-called moderns have all rather too readily bought into is that of what I call linearity - let me write it large for emphasis: THE MYTH OF LINEARITY. Yes, that's a powerful myth indeed, traceable all the way back to the Industrial Revolution, I believe. The thinkers of the Enlightenment gave great support to this myth with their own parallel one of indefinite progress. Let me write that myth large here for you: THE MYTH OF PROGRESS. However, more often than not, the wisdom, garnered over long years of living, of the ancient religions, seems definitely to contain a little more of the truth - certainly much more existential truth, that is truth as it is involved in the daily experience of living. They proposed a circular myth. Let me write that large, too: THE CIRCULAR MYTH. One could write this myth in other words, too, like: THE MYTH OF CYCLES. Linearity is a pretty one-dimensional one (also bi-directional, given that a line points in two opposite directions) whereas the circular/cyclic one is more dynamic and this can spiral outwards and inwards and on and on and on.

Anyway, the Christmas Season is, indeed, quintessentially a mythic one. Christmas itself is a profound MYTH. Santa Claus and Christ belong to the same mythic dimensions, and we poor human animals need to be inspired by our more profound myths. Let me return to the cyclic myth here. I contend that the cyclic myth is a healthier one for a number of reasons: (i) it is in harmony with the seasons and with planetary movement (I refer to astronomical principles here, not to the pseudo-science of astrology), (ii) it is more in harmony with the nature of the human animal, who as a creature participates in the cycles of conception, growth, decay and death and so on and on and on and on and (iii) it also appears to me that it is more psychically true - that is, we grow not in a linear fashion, but in a cyclic one. For instance, take my regrets as I grow older, for hurting X or Y or Z; for not doing A, B or C; for not saying "sorry", for not telling X or Y that I loved them before they "shuffled off this mortal coil" etc. Sometimes, I quite fancy that I have dealt with these "hurts" and "hurtings", to have quite dealt with them, "sloughed them off", only to have them return, as if within the circle of regret, no sooner have I erased an outer circle, a further inner concentric circle raises its ugly circumference. It were as if as soon as I had peeled back a layer of the onion of regret I had only exposed a deeper-seated eye-watering layer beneath.

Back to Dickens:
The work of all great novelists is replete with wisdom and none more truly than that of the great story teller Charles Dickens. One of my favourite books by Dickens is his wonderful Tale of Two Cities, with those opening lines, worthy of a medieval divine in their import: "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." How we all might wish we had the wit to pen them. Yet, I still would like to quote some other lines from this famous book, coutesy of my current favourite contemporary analyst, Dr. Irvin D. Yalom:
For, as I draw closer and closer to the end, I travel in a circle nearer and nearer to the beginning. It seems to be one of the kind of smoothings and preparings of the way. My heart is touched now by many rememberances that had long fallen alseep. (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, quoted in Yalom's Staring at the Sun, 149.)
I am reminded by the lines from one of my favourite modernist poets, T.S. Eliot which run thus: "In my beginning is my end. ..In my end is my beginning."--from Four Quartets, "East Coker."

Enough. Walk lightly on Mother Earth, my friends, and open yourself to the cyclic experience of living.

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