So, Gentle Reader, here we are, on the cusp of autumn. Here in glorious Derby (?), I think the summer has been pretty reasonable. However, the days are shortening, the air that touch crisper and I’m sure I’m not the only one who cannot shake the association of September with the seasonal change that is just one of several cycles by which we mark our lives. Their rhythms follow the beat of two different drums, one natural, one human. The other major cultural cycle is the calendar year, with its associated end-of-year reckoning and whether we make resolutions or not.
Religions and states pin on to these their own commemorations, times for feasting and fasting, celebration and penance. Then there are the natural cycles of the seasons, of harvests, of solstices, punctuated by the anniversaries of our own births. The self-imposed markers of the years’ progress like Halloween and Bonfire Night.
Some people (like me, Mr Killjoy here), claim to be indifferent to all of this, and we’re entirely wrong. It’s comforting to use at least some of them as reference points to give structure to our lives, providing moments of reflection, review, renewal and resolution. September is a good example of how the natural and cultural cycles work together. Summers breathed its last sigh, and with it the time of year when we most typically kick off our shoes, clogs whatever, and try to enjoy ourselves. The shortening of the days seems to be a message to start getting serious again.
But this steady progress of time is nothing to be depressed about or fearful of. I turned 52 this year. So I’m one year older, and so are we all. It’s only life, and it doesn’t have to suck. Recognising and welcoming the simplicity of these gentle cycles of culture and nature can act as a corrective. It reminds us that nothing is for ever.
I wonder whether living well requires us to give due weight to the natural and the cultural, the cyclical and the linear. We need some sense of the linear, because life is finite, with a beginning and an end, and every step on the way demands something different from us. Also, if we don’t keep moving, life loses its vitality.
Heeding September’s call to is one way of keeping our minds’ cogs turning, and that’s only for the good. One of the many flawed aspects of the modern psyche is that we have become so fixated on the ideals of progress and development that it has lost touch with the simplicity of life. We pursue higher more and better possessions, improved life satisfaction scores, greater fitness, better health.
September is a good time to remind ourselves that while any such progress is welcome, the main point is to be living well now, not for the hope of a better life or a better bank balance to come.
The purpose of learning new things or practising old ones is so that, we will do so enriched. We should be glad of being six feet above, not six feet below.