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The Great Circle

Updated: Jul 9, 2023

Poem By Raymond J. Baughan

Turn scarlet, leaves!

Spin Earth!

Tumble the shadows into dawn,

The morning out of night;

Spill stars across these skies

And hide them with the suns.

Teach me to turn my sullen sense toward marvel.

Let green and red and dark and day

Concur with the returning of life

I am.

The Choirs of Angels - A Vision of St. Hildegard Von Bingen

In our culture, we often think of life as a line. We are born at the starting point of the line, and the dot at the end is our death. This is how our western religions have always seen life. As a line. This of course is not what we see in the world around us. Life is a circle within a circle within a circle into infinity. Our lives are made up of seconds, of which 60 make a minute–the clock completes the circle and starts again. 60 minutes makes an hour, and again, the clock completes the circle and starts over. There are 24 hours a day and 365 days make a year. Every year begins on January first and ends on December 31st, and while the seasons change they somehow are always the same and everything travels in this swirling cycle. Our planet, our blue boat home so to speak, is itself spinning in a circle like a top, and as it spins it traces a larger circle around our sun, and the sun is a part of galaxy that is turning and probably turning around larger things in the universe and on and on.

And yet, we as a culture don’t seem to see this swirling cycle of life. We see a hard rigid line. The dominant religions that formed the Western World saw life as a line. They believed that the line begins at first breath, though they will tell you they have always believed that life begins at conception, which they haven't. But anyway, life begins, and then at death, there is a pause in the line for something known as the Day of Judgment. This day is where God decides where your line will go for the rest of eternity, either in the fire and torments of hell, or in the splendor of eternal bliss in heaven.

It is worth noting that in either scenario, because the structure of time is a line, not a circle, both heaven and hell are totally static. Hell is a place where the same thing happens day after day. But heaven is no different. Heaven in the bible is a place without night. There is no moon or shifting of the seasons, there is no cycle of the years, there is no transition at all. Both places are frozen in one moment, never changing, expanding, or evolving. Yes, heaven is portrayed as a place of safety and security, a place without pain or sorrow or anything else we are afraid of. But it is also a place where nothing ever changes.

The influence of the Abrahamic Religions has waned in our culture, one of the things that has stayed around is our belief in the line, not the circle and with that has come fear. Think about it. All the things we fear in life, all the things we as a culture spend money on are all in attempts to control the aspects of life we are afraid of. We are afraid of the dark and the evil that might lurk there, so we fill our world with lights to make our cities an eternal day, just like heaven. Globally we spend 564 billion dollars each year on wrinkle creams, face lifts and acids to remove wrinkles and cover blemishes to help us deny the fact that we are aging. We have hidden and sanitized death and disease as much as we can because we do not want to be reminded that pain, illness and eventually death, are all a part of life. Our death is simply the point at which the cells in our bodies return to the origin of the circle, nourishing the growth of new life.

But while we may struggle with that reality, could it really be any other way, and deep down would we really want it to be any other way? Imagine if there was no night, not dawn, to twilight, if there was no winter, or crocuses breaking through the snow, no harvest or springtime, no change? no progression? No circle? In her poem, “Why do Leaves fall,” Nancy woods says this:

“You shall ask, what good are dead leaves?

And I will tell you they nourish the sore earth.

You shall ask, what reason is there for winter?

And I will tell you to bring about new leaves.

You shall ask, why are the leaves so green?

And I will tell you because they are rich with life.

You shall ask, why must summer end?

And I will tell you so that the leaves can die.”

While we as a society fear death and decay, life is not possible without it. When we can grasp that, our whole lives shift. The Right Reverend LaVeda Lewis-Highcorrell wrote in her book The Five Mystics Secrets that:

“Death, like life, is the uniting force of all things. Imagine how different your life could be if you stopped fearing it? What is it in this entire world that does not die? Even as the mountains rise up and fall down, the seas dry up and other seas begin… Surely, you too, will die. The Divine did not mess up the world. Death is not a pathological condition, it is not some punishment or mistake. It is as it was meant to be. As God is our Mother and Father, so death and life are their right and left hands. They are her two faces. This is the eternal cycle of this world.”

So…. Why am I writing all this? What is the point of me babbling on about heaven, and time, and the seasons, and circles and lines? Didn’t we leave geometry behind in high school? Well, is what I would like you to take away from this reflection this morning. The first is this. There is nothing, nothing, that you are afraid of that lasts forever. The world around us and the whole of human history declare that nothing lasts forever. Before the big bang, there was nothing, and some day everything we know and don’t know may all return to nothing. Whatever it is, pain, sorrow, illness, darkness, loss, even death. None of it lasts. The wheel always turns, and all things are changed and born anew. Jesus of Nazareth says in the Gospel of Luke:

“Why are you so worried? The birds do not sow or reap, and yet they are fed. And the flowers, do not spin or weave, yet they are better dressed than any king or queen to ever live. Do not be afraid.”

Friends, we can let go of fear. Then, once we have let go of that fear. We can really start to enjoy the changes that we see. That flower that is so beautiful, the leaves on the trees that are growing and changing, the face of the person you love most, each moment without fear is a moment to enjoy the ever changing and growing world around us.

As we go from this place, may we go forth without fear, embracing the changes and chances of life, embracing each moment as part of the circle, allowing ourselves to fall in love with the mystery and unfolding of life around us. As Starhawk says in her famous prayer:

“Earth Mother, Star Mother, You are called by a thousand names, May we remember that we are all just cells in your body and dance together… within you we are born, we grow, live and die. You bring us around the cycle of rebirth and within us, you dance forever.”


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