With “Peaks and Valleys” Spencer Johnson shared one of his great parables. One inviting to see how good times and bad times never are only one of them and remain interconnected.
Just like the cycle of nature.
Passing through the vineyard today I could see how the vines were being prepared for next year. Pruning the vine is there to support the growth cycle of grapevines. Around this time of the year, it serves to improve the plant’s health and to increase the quality of fruits for next year’s crop. It is done at a time of the year that is more convenient for the vine than spring.
Every step in the cycle builds on the previous step and prepares the next step. Just like moving from peaks to valleys. And yet, the cycle repeats itself.
It establishes a cyclical view on time, one indigenous people often still connect with. In ancient Egypt, the ouroboros was used as the symbol of the eternal cyclic renewal. At that time the highest form of life consisted in reexperiencing what had already happened. It was the desire to replicate the universal story.
Peaks and valleys didn’t matter, they belonged to the cycle.
A sense of chronological time emerged with the Bible. We now had a story that started with Adam and Eve. Across centuries this sense of time transformed itself into a linear view of life. It included a predefined series of stages leading from birth to midlife and death. It also led to concepts like the idea of a midlife crisis happening at a fixed moment in life. We found ourselves with a set of expectations as to how our life would be as Bruce Feiler describes it in his book “life is in the transitions”.
The idea of a linear life was an evolution and established the idea that progress is possible. Personal fulfillment became accessible. At the same time, it also meant that there was always only one chance. One had to do it right to succeed and move from one stage to the other. Meaning was to be found in successfully achieving the different stages according to how it should happen. That is how society defined what should happen.
With the increased speed of change, this idea is falling apart. There are too many events in our lives disrupting the linearity we are supposed to achieve. Life lost linearity.
The increase of disruptions leads to the possibility to learn to deal with the transitions that come along.
It’s still daunting.
Losing linearity we are also losing a structure easing meaning. In replacement, we gain a huge number of choices. And the necessity to make choices.
We are shifting from a time in which meaning was mainly external and to be fulfilled by us, to a time where meaning needs to come from within. It remains connected with a community as humans can’t do without belonging. But it requires an agency that establishes the ability to decide for ourselves instead of following a predetermined path. It shifts what we can expect from our community.
We’ve also moved from having to do it right to choosing how to do it right.
It’s true on the peak. It’s true in the valley.