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Life Lives in Circles
Life-Materials Cycle and Re-Cycle

A bouquet of circles
Winter sunrise Spring bloodroot
apple flower opening
hurricane leaving Florida
fern fronds uncurling
mushroom on forest floor
a desmid alga, enlarged
human ovum, enlarged

When we say that Life lives in circles, we don’t have to mean something scientific, or profound or mystical. Cycles in our bodies are bio–rhythms; we are essentially rhythmic creatures. Every time we dance, or skate, or throw a ball or run the bases, we prove again that life lives in circles. Every time a dog fetches the ball back to the hand that threw it, a circle is completed. Every time a mouse nibbles a deer antler for its calcium and turns it into milk for her litter, a circle is completed.

A migrating bird flies from Minnesota to Peru in August. Next April, it will fly from Peru to Minnesota. When it does this, it will have made a circle both in time and in space.
Picture Earth traveling in its orbit around the sun. Earth twirls slowly through space spinning like a huge slow top. Now picture that tiny bird flying South in August, and as Earth wheels through its year, flying from Peru to Minnesota in April.

“Life lives in circles” is not just an idea—these are physical circles and real lives we’re talking about.

The Oglala Lakota holy man, Black Elk,
said long ago:

The Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round.… The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars.

The wind, in its greatest power, whirls.

Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours.

The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round.

Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were.

The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.

from Black Elk Speaks, by Black Elk and John Neihardt

Black Elk was right: "Everything tries to be round."

Dewdrops and tears try to be round
Smiles try to be round
Eyebrows try to be round.
A butterfly's tongue tries to be round
Bellies try to be round.

Life is filled with curves--what goes around, comes around. Circles are traditional symbols of completion and perfection, but also suggest the turning Wheel of Fortune and can suggest endless futility--we are captive on a carousel of Time.

The Great Circle Dance

Our Solar system whirls in what is called the Milky Way Galaxy, which is shaped like an infinitely large pinwheel, because it is turning, although it turns slowly as we experience time. It is 100,000 light years in diameter. Every 200 million years, our solar system can celebrate a birthday in one turning of its galaxy . The circle as shape and as cycle is one of the central facts of the Universe. Every star, and there are uncounted billions, is an enormous ball of fire. The circle is so basically important that many human societies and religions cast their philosophies into Wheels and Mandalas. We use circles as symbols—of life, of wholeness, of marriage and completion. To the ancient Romans, Fate was the Wheel of Fortune, raising us up, then at times rolling right over us. Native Americans give us the Medicine Wheel and the sacred hoop. Tibetan Buddhism pictures the universe in magnificent circle diagrams called Mandalas.

The circles and cycles of life are an endless and powerful dance, and every atom in the universe is caught up in this enormous whirling. We living beings are all dancers. We move and change and learn new steps all the time. The great planets slowly spin in the vastness, and while they do they swing their stately orbits around Sol.

Life Materials Cycle and Recycle

The work of life on earth is:

• Cycling-- to transfer matter (life-materials, nutrients) from life to life.

• Energy Transfer -- to transform solar energy into food by photosynthesis, then to transfer energy (food) from life to life.

Life-Materials (Nutrients) Cycle and recycle. Nutrients are not used up.

Energy flows through the Biosphere and is used up, but is continuously renewed by green lives.

To help you recall : matter moves through lives in circles; energy moves through lives in a straight line. Matter Cycles; Energy Flows

What are Life-Materials?


Life-Materials are matter; elemental substances such as Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Carbon, Oxygen, Sulfur and Phosphorus--the stuff that makes our bodies. Life materials are Nutrients, the building blocks of life.
Life Materials are shared by all lives on earth and used over and over again.
Each death makes shared life-materials available to new lives.
Death is Earth's original re-cycling plan.
Our physical selves are entirely recycled.
Every atom of our bodies has belonged to many, many previous lives before we ate it or breathed it in.

The circle and sphere and spiral are forms that are everywhere in life, everywhere on earth, everywhere in the universe.

These forms are fundamental forms, root shapes, that are created by gravity, surface tension, electro-magnetism and other forces.


Explore Further in Circles:

The Season Cycle
Feedback Loops
Nutrient Cycles
Micro-Scale Circles and Cycles
Human-Scale Circles and Cycles
Macro-Scale Circles and Cycles
Essay: Life Lives in Circles


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