• PHOEBE

On Circularity

Something a bit different today.

I mentioned that I would occasionally play around with the format of this newsletter moving forward: This week, that means a few compiled thoughts on circularity. In keeping with this - admittedly quite abstract! - concept, there's no essential 'point' to sharing these ideas – except that they have been circling (excuse the pun) in my mind recently, and perhaps might also be of interest to yours.

I hope that they spark something for you.


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"You will circle through some of the issues over and over, each time at a different level. There is no such thing as being done with an artistic life. Frustrations and rewards exist at all levels on the path. Our aim here is to find the trail, establish our footing, and begin the climb."

Julia Cameron


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"One day, I walked into a bookstore on Adalbertstrasse near the university, and there on a table was this little cloth-bound book in rag paper. It was exquisite. It was Das Stunden-Buch, Rilke's The Book of Hours.


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I picked it up, and the poem that it opened to was the second poem of the first part, “Ich lebe mein Leben in wachsenden Ringen,” “I live my life in widening circles” — and that something immediately rearranged in the furniture of my mind. I identified completely with it, and I saw — it was just eight lines in that poem — that it could redefine that I was on a spiritual path, that because I wasn’t on the linear road, up the ladder, up Jacob’s ladder to get closer to 'God', that 'God' had been there all the time, and I was orbiting around him, and that it had been happening, actually, for thousands of years."

Joanna Macy, On Being


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"Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life."

Bertrand Russell


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“An individual body can be healed, and it can become healthy. But it can't necessarily be optimized; it's not a machine, after all. Recalling Frazier's exclamation in Walden Two that humanity is only 1 percent as productive as it could be (productive of what?), we might ask what goal manifest dismantling has to offer in place of the North Star of productivity. Beyond the vague cyclicality of "going on living", can there be a teleology without a telos?

For an answer I'll return to Feminism and Ecological Communities, where Chris Cuomo...suggests a potential abandonment of teleology:

"Moral agents can decide how to negotiate the world without hopes of reaching a predetermined, necessary state of harmony of static equilibrium, or any ultimate state...We can value the somewhat ordered/somewhat chaotic universe in which we inevitably dwell, and we can also decide that it is good and worthwhile to prevent significant destruction to other valuable members of the universe through the agency and choice that also seem inevitable."

This is something like a goal without telos, a view towards the future that doesn't resolve in a point but rather circles back toward itself in constant renegotiation."

Jenny Odell, How To Do Nothing