Circling into the new year

Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash

There is something comforting about circles. Maybe it has to do with the hug, that lovely element of human relations that suddenly went missing about a year ago. But in these days of sharp angles and cross purposes, we all just need a little comfort; I think it might be found in circles and spheres. (Circles and spheres are conflated in this essay, literary license hereby invoked.) These are a few that give me hope & comfort for the difficult days and months ahead.

First off? Our little planet. It is somehow encouraging to reflect on how many uncounted millions of other spheres are out there in the universe. Planet Earth, this much-abused and ill-cared-for little globe whirling around among billions of others does not carry the future of the universe on its spherical shoulders. Hopefully we earthlings will be around for another million years or so; but however we do or do not care for our home sphere, the universe will go right on with its eternal purpose.

Circles are for calm. Who ever heard of a square labyrinth? Speaking of the universe (which we were in the paragraph above,) according to the Theosophical Society in America, Hindu lore holds that the universe itself is a game that the gods play and walking a labyrinth is following in the steps of Shiva Nataraja, Lord of the Dance. Some labyrinth walkers quietly meditate — perhaps solving universal problems large or small. Some dance. Don’t we need a lot of both in this day and age?

Circles are also for fun: think baseball, bubble baths, emoji. Hula hoops. If Neanderthal kid got playtime, my guess is that she learned early on to roll up some clay and toss it around.

And then there’s art. Among my personal favorite scuptures (though Barbara Hepworth is right up there with her round holes, and in a class of her own) are Olafur Eliasson’s “Seeing spheres.” Seeing spheres, 2019, consists of five ultra-polished steel balls, each over 15-feet tall, that stand in a circle around a central space. Each sphere supports a flat, circular mirror, framed by a ring of LEDs, which is oriented inwards to face the mirrors of the surrounding spheres.

The author seeing herself in “Seeing spheres”

Standing in the center, watching yourself and the surrounding landscape seem to appear and disappear is both a whimsical and a contemplative experience. The installation is on the plaza of Chase Center, home of the Warriors, right off San Francisco Bay. Here’s what artist Eliasson said on the day of its unveiling in August, 2019:

Seeing spheres is a public space that contains you and contains multitudes. We often think of public space as empty, negative space in the city, viewed from a car or crossed on the way to somewhere else. Seeing spheres offers a place to pause, where you see yourself from outside, as a participant in society.” In the midst of what seems a forever quarantine, wandering around Eliasson’s remarkable work is balm for the soul.

Circling back: Everyone hopes for straight lines, straight talk, straight answers as a way out of these dark days. But here’s to circles of perspective, calm, joy, happiness and peace.

Lifelong newspaper & magazine writer, author, blogger at franjohns.net, agitator for justice, kindness & interfaith understanding.

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