Cycles of Life
I want to show you a beautiful idea. It’s a Navajo American concept I found in a YouTube testimonial when compiling a few videos for AllCreation.org several years ago.
This statement really struck and stuck with me —
“The universe is the circle of circles.”
When i heard that, I thought — “beautiful… intriguing… What?!”
It took a few years to grasp it, but now I think I understand the concept from a biospheric perspective. Here it is:
Living, being — whatever you want to call existence as we know it, is occurring independently and interdependently all of the time, for each of us, in shared spaces. In our bodies. On our planet. Everything is cycling. Birth to death. Darkness to Light. Breakfast to lunch. Winter to Harvest. Our life experiences occur because of un-mappable, innumerable, concentric cycles. Cycles of Habitat. Atmosphere. Nutrition. Orbit. Rotation. Blood-flow. Mortality. Breath… Rountines. Cycles of Cycles.
On planetary scale, Earth’s living Cycle of Cycles looks like a collection of ongoing, infinitely-dynamic, biological entanglements mediated and regulated by darkness, light, temperature, moisture, and nutrient availability.
Cycles of life are co-determined by cycles of light, moisture, climatological conditions and ecological features. These four things determine everything.
Photosynthesis, the conversion of sunlight into animated plant and microbial material (life) is not only among the greatest of spiritual mysteries, it’s largely responsible for producing and maintaining oxygen content in our atmosphere and supplying most of the food for life on Earth. All life.
Now, this blog was originally written for a website exploring faith and spiritual practice-based connections to Earth’s biodiveristy. So, along that line … let’s look at Genesis I for a moment, and marvel at its conceptual similarity to the current scientific record on Earth’s biospheric development.
The importance of the emergence of light, life, life’s cycles, and photosynthesis are all here…
Genesis I: 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
(Earth is about 4.5 billion years old.)
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning — the first day. 6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning — the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning — the third day. (Complex life on land began about 450 million years ago.)
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning — the fourth day. 20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning — the fifth day. (First complex ocean life began about 600 million years ago.)
24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, [a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Our species, Homo sapiens, first appeared about 300,000 years ago.)
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Humanity first reached 1 billion people in total population around 1804.)
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day. (The last glacial period for planet Earth ended about 12,000 years ago; 10,000 B.C.)
Pretty amazing. They’re pretty close. Here’s a review on Science’s timeline. First came Earth, the physical planet. Then microbial life, in water. Then atmosphere. Then complex life, first in water, then on land. Today’s biosphere, capable of hosting human beings, began forming about 65 million years ago, right after the last dinosaurs went extinct. Our species, homo Sapiens, first appeared about 300,000 years ago. Our climate went from “frigid” to “goldilocks” just 12,000 years ago. Human civilization began about 10,000 years ago with plant domestication. Modern civilization began about 500 years ago with European colonization and the subsequent expansion of Capitalism and Industrialization.
And in all of this, cycles. Cycles of darkness and light, governing. Cycles of cycles.
There are unending scientific efforts to understand how darkness affects photosynthetic success for microbes, ecosystems and all life. But, perhaps our spiritual curiosity and fervor should begin not with questions of human goodness or fear-based questions such as, “Where do we go when we die?” but with, “How does life get here?”
And to that I would go back to exploring this mystery— why are moisture and light able to create and animate material? Out of darkness. On Earth. Only on Earth. What is that? And— isn’t it mind-boggling that all of these cycles within cycles determine whether or not, and how, we exist?
Thanks for reading. This piece was originally written for AllCreation.org. Read its original here. Most of this article is based on my blog “Care & Maintenance” from the Medium series, “Biosphere Earth,” AllCreation.org is produced by my nonprofit, BioIntegrity Partnerships. Check out more of my work on AllCreation.org.