“Life is like a merry-go-round. It is full of ups and downs, sometimes you feel like you’re just going in circles, but when the ride ends, you want to do it again.” – Linda Poindexter
Are You Riding a Colorful, Whirring Merry-Go-Round or Do You Prefer the Long, Narrow, Controlled Track to Infinity?
If you are the former–clutching the brass ring–you are living what Frederic Hudson [The Adult Years: Mastering the Art of Self Renewal] calls a Cyclical Life.
The latter is what he calls the Linear path.
The Linear path is established when people do a, b, and c in youth expecting a predictable–even certain–outcome in adulthood. The plan is: work hard, make the right friends, get the correct education, establish the necessary connections while young–and the result will surely be that of comfort [even wealth] and security when older. It does sound good; I must admit that.
The Cyclical life is seen more as a Carousel, with its Ups and Downs–Highs and Lows–Successes and Failures–ever-changing and ever-renewing. “. . .[The cyclical viewpoint is:] to change is to mature. . .to renew oneself endlessly.” [Hudson Art of Self Renewal]
One who functions on a linear scale does not look inward and try to evaluate his feelings. He merely marches through life, like a good soldier–or perhaps he presses through life, like a good machine. The Linear thinker would look at others who have experienced divorce, failures, set-backs, etc., as those who are weak–duds in the assembly line. Sameness, stasis, lack of deviation is demanded of the Linear Life.
“In linear thinking, adult life is viewed as an orderly development following universal principles and rules. Life is lived for future goals and results and is driven by perfectionism and social constraints.
“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.” – James Oppenheim
Cyclical implies going in circle, with the repetition of familiar patterns. . . .From this perspective, the purpose of life is to master the repetitive patterns in our ever-changing experience. Cyclical thinking looks for human meaning in the ongoing flow of daily experience. . . .It assumes that life can make sense in good times and in bad, in growth and decline, in beginnings and endings. Cyclical thinking tolerates high levels of ambiguity and finds pathways for living in dark and unseemly places, if necessary. [Oooh – Sounds Scary! Actually, it is scary; yet, I prefer scary to that of being mechanical–and then, jaded, when the machine fails.]
“Ever since the industrial revolution, linear thinking has dominated our consciousness, with its basic notions of progress, perfectionism, success, happiness, and planned change. A linear perspective portrays life as a series of advances from simple to complex, results that are seen as serial improvements; life is viewed as incremental, additive, purposive, and predictable. As we orient ourselves to cyclical thinking, one major shift in our thinking is from progress to process. [There’s that pesky “process” word again, i.e. process artists and/or process-motivated art]
“The promise of progress was a great motivator for middle-class, eighteenth-and nineteenth-century Americans who sought increased security, power, and well-being in a nation insulated from the rest of the world. First we tamed the wilderness and then human culture evolved.” [“We used to build civilizations. Now we build shopping malls.” – Bill Bryson] Continuing the Hudson Quote: “But today’s middle-class people are bogged down in that culture. They are more frustrated than fulfilled by the notion of progress, which seems like a promissory note that has been withdrawn. [“In an ugly and unhappy world the richest man can purchase nothing but ugliness and unhappiness.” George Bernard Shaw] Because the conditions of today’s world are often discordant, those who endorse a linear perspective feel that they are failing or going downhill when they experience a crisis or surprise in life. [like divorce or job loss] . . . [Or they enter denial and either quit appraising themselves and blame others for their own failings] “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Many of the frustrations of adults today stem from the dysfunctions of the linear way of thinking, not from human incompetence. If we would alter the way we think instead of feeling bad and inadequate [or freezing in denial], our lives could be challenging and rewarding again.” Hudson, The Art of Self-Renewal [pgs 30-31]
Worse still is when people just quit viewing themselves at all. They merely put on their blinders and keep on trucking. “I do not know myself, and God forbid that I should.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” – Anonymous That is especially true, if we are deceiving ourselves. The very platforms of our own lives are sitting on non-existent soil. There is no way to fix that house–not until some true soil is carted in. At least, we cyclical thinkers know that we need to reevaluate–to renew.
In summary, people who endorse the linear perspective see the future much like we are taught to view heaven itself–the promise of a brighter tomorrow for my hard work today. It does sound great, doesn’t it? The problem is that it does not work. I refer to Barbara de Angelis again: In spite of our best efforts . . . our hopes and dreams keep bumping into reality. Reality lets us down, not just once but over and over again. At some point in our lives, usually by the time that we reach our thirties or forties, we face the difficult realization that no matter what we acquire or achieve, we can’t completely control what happens on the outside. This conclusion fills our hearts with a deep sensation of emotional and spiritual uneasiness, and haunts our minds with challenging and perhaps disturbing questions: What is the purpose of my life? What am I supposed to be doing here? Why is it so difficult for me to attain true happiness, true inner peace? . . . Change is inevitable,so stop resisting and surrender to life’s flow.” Barbara de Angelis, Secrets About Life Every Woman Should Know
In case you haven’t already deduced the same: I endorse the Cyclical perspective of life. I readily advocate a continually seeking to improve myself [hoping that everyone else will do the same, but accepting that I have no control in that regard]. Further more, I honestly believe that art–in any of its many shapes and forms–is the key to my own self-renewal and can be the same for anyone else. It is the Circle-The Circle is My Life.”