13 September 2010

Necessary Decay

"Forest Mushrooms Sprout up on the Grassy Forest Floor"
by Michael S. Lewis. Mushrooms seemed an obvious
choice to me for an entry about growth and decay.
“[B]ut everything that comes into being must decay. Not even a constitution such as this will last forever. It, too, must face dissolution. And this is how it will be dissolved. All plants that grow in the earth, and also all animals that grow upon it, have periods of fruitfulness and barrenness of both soul and body as often as the revolutions complete the circumferences of their circles.”
~ Plato’s Republic 546b.

This quote resonated with me today. I was in one of my Politics classes, discussing how Plato’s views on the just regime are revealed through the interplay of Socrates and Glaucon in The Republic, when I stumbled across this quote in the text. I’ll admit I didn’t have time this weekend to finish the reading, so I did not see this little gem of wisdom until we opened to those pages this morning. However, as soon as I read it, it lit the fire of thought within me. Which brings me to today’s topic: necessary decay.

As Plato (speaking through Socrates) so aptly describes, “everything that comes into being must decay.” From the smallest, most insignificant plant to the greatest constructs of human society, all things eventually become less than they were, and this process is both natural and necessary. We all go through cycles of growth, development, and increase. We all age, our bodies weaken, and eventually die. The moon waxes and wanes. Patterns of birth, death, rebirth (if you are so inclined to believe in reincarnation; I, incidentally, am so inclined). Cycles, as so many Pagans know, are the fiber of life. This acknowledgement of cyclical patterns seems common sense to me, yet I know many of my peers who live their lives without a thought to the turning of the seasons nor the periods of sluggishness that come and go, the plateaus of their own lives, nor the cycles of politics nor the perennial flowers in bloom nor any of the other thousands of examples of cycles in nature, society, everything. They barely notice the sun moving position across the sky because they’re so absorbed in themselves and their immediate tasks.

Now, I’m a huge proponent of living in the moment, of grasping opportunities as they come along and not having any regrets; however, there’s a downside to being so absorbed by the present that you can’t see the bigger picture, the cycles of life. It’s easy to forget sometimes that decay is a natural and necessary beast, especially when I’m suffering through the New York winters and all I want to do is sleep, but I know that all too soon I’ll be leading our nation’s sons and daughters into battle, so I need to get up. I need to get up and run. I need to stay up late and learn everything I can. The enemy isn’t sleeping, so neither should I. I hate winter. I hate being cold. All I want to do when it’s 20 degrees and below is hibernate, and that’s an entirely natural response. We’re programmed to slow down in the winter (which hits all to early up here, in my opinion. I’m sure by late October and early November I’ll be complaining about how much I miss Virginia), and that’s something that in the thick of the moment, I forget. I’m too busy fighting my own nature to recognize that that’s precisely what I’m doing: fighting my nature. And you know what? That’s just fine…because forgetting is a natural process of decay, too.

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