March 14, 2014

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

It seems that life is an endless cycle of cycles

Cynthia DewesBeware the Ides of March. That’s what Julius Caesar was told to do and, apparently, did not. He had Brutus to contend with, but we have our own villain to deal with. Namely, the weather.

As I’m sure everyone has said, and is tired of hearing, this has been a winter for the record books. Constant ice, snow and below-zero temperatures. And not only up north, either.

One of our sons, who lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, recently sent us a photo taken at his home. There’s a foot (twelve inches!) of snow on his front lawn, You would think it was a scene in Wisconsin.

About the same time, our daughter-in-law living in South Carolina told me she was home from work because the blood center she manages was closed because of ice. Imagine, closing a blood center because of ice on the roads! In South Carolina!

Naturally, all this is the result of global warming. But then, isn’t everything lately? Still, we are certainly in an extreme weather pattern, which I believe is part of a natural cycle. Since most of us don’t live much beyond 100 years, and recorded history only goes back so far, this weather seems brand new because we’ve never experienced it before in our collective memory.

Like so many other aspects of life, this is one cycle which is part of a larger natural arrangement. There’s a natural life span from birth to death in people, animals and even plants. The moon and sun follow cycles, as do the solar systems. The seasons of the year illustrate the cycle of nature’s death and regeneration.

Even human things like our moods, fertility and female menstruation are cyclical. Digestion of food follows a cycle. Sometimes we create our own cycles with habitual behavior: We eat three meals a day at approximately the same times; or we go to bed at a certain time and get up at a certain time.

Now, if the world depends upon natural cycles, how does that leave much room for free will? It’s depressing to think in such a fatalistic fashion. Surely we’re not just weak pawns in some giant chess game?

Well, no. When Jesus came, he entered history, showing us in his humanity how we should live as beloved children of a good God. Even without sinning himself, he taught us how to use our gift of free will. Amid all the natural cycles of life, we may still choose our fates. Christianity is a hopeful, forward-looking faith which can lead us to everlasting joy.

The natural cycles were set up as part of God’s creation, to serve us and our human needs, but if we’re feeling ornery we can change them. We can try to sleep by day and carouse by night, or try to plant the garden in September and harvest it in April. Good luck with that.

More likely, we can try to change our man-made cycles. Sometimes we may feel trapped in an impossible work situation, but we can will ourselves to plan for the future instead of giving in to inertia or despair.

Sometimes we may be upset about a troubled marriage or kids who are acting out. But we can improve the cycle of our family life by willing to be a more positive, proactive member. We can be patient and persevere. Because when we do these things, the Ides of March won’t be so scary.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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