Posted by: chrismaser | March 9, 2010



While all things in Nature are cyclical, no cycle is a perfect circle, despite such depictions in the scientific literature and textbooks. They are, instead, a coming together in time and space at a specific point, where one “end” of a cycle approximates—but only approximates—its “beginning” in a particular time and place. Between its beginning and its ending, a cycle can have any configuration of cosmic happenstance. Biophysical cycles can thus be likened to a coiled spring insofar as every coil approximates the curvature of its neighbor but always on a different spatial level (temporal level in Nature), thus never touching.

The size and relative flexibility of a metal spring determines how closely one coil approaches another—the small, flexible, coiled spring in a ballpoint pen juxtaposed to the large, stiff, coiled spring on the front axel of an eighteen-wheel truck. The smaller and more flexible a spring, the closer are its coils, like the cycles of annual plants in a backyard garden or a mountain meadow. Conversely, the larger and more rigid a spring, the more distant are its coils from one another, like the millennial cycles of Great Basin bristlecone pines growing on rocky slopes in the mountains of Nevada, where they are largely protected from fire, or a Norway spruce growing on a rocky promontory in the Alps of Switzerland.

Regardless of its size or flexibility, a spring’s coils are forever reaching outward. With respect to Nature’s biophysical cycles, they are forever moving toward the next level of novelty in the creative process and so are perpetually embracing the uncertainty of future conditions—never to repeat the exact outcome of an event as it once happened. This phenomenon occurs even in times of relative climatic stability. Be that as it may, progressive global warming will only intensify the uncertainties.

In human terms, life is composed of rhythms or routines that follow the cycles of the universe, from the minute to the infinite. We humans most commonly experience the nature of cycles in our pilgrimage through the days, months, and years of our lives wherein certain events are repetitive—day and night, the waxing and waning of the moon, the march of the seasons, and the coming and going of birthdays, all marking the circular passage we perceive as time within the curvature of space. In addition to the visible manifestation of these repetitive cycles, Nature’s biophysical processes are cyclical in various scales of time and space, a phenomenon that means all relationships are simultaneously cyclical in their outworking and forever novel in their outcomes.

Some cycles revolve frequently enough to be well known in a person’s lifetime, like the winter solstice. Others are completed only in the collective lifetimes of several generations, like the lifecycle of a three-thousand-year-old giant sequoia in California’s Sequoia National Park—hence the notion of the invisible present. Still others are so vast that their motion can only be assumed. Yet even they are not completely aloof because we are kept in touch with them through our interrelatedness and interdependence. Regarding cycles, farmer and author Wendell Berry said, “It is only in the processes of the natural world, and in analogous and related processes of human culture, that the new may grow usefully old, and the old be made new.”1


Related Posts:

• The Law Of Cosmic Unification

• Principle 1: Everything is a relationship

• Principle 2: All relationships are inclusive and productive.

• Principle 3: The only true investment is energy from sunlight.

• Principle 4: All systems are defined by their function.

• Principle 5: All relationships result in a transfer of energy.

• Principle 6: All relationships are self-reinforcing feedback loops.

• Principle 7: All relationships have one or more tradeoffs.

• Principle 8: Change is a process of eternal becoming.

• Principle 9: All relationships are irreversible.

• Principle 10: All systems are based on composition, structure, and          function.

• Principle 11: All systems have cumulative effects, lag periods, and           thresholds.

• Principle 13: Systemic change is based on self-organized criticality.

• Principle 14: Dynamic disequilibrium rules all systems.


  1. Wendell Berry, The Road and the Wheel, Earth Ethics, 1 (1990):8–9.

Text © by Chris Maser 2010. All rights reserved.

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This series of blogs is excerpted from my 2009 book, Social-Environmental Planning: The Design Interface Between Everyforest and Everycity, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. 321 pp.

If you want to contact me, you can visit my website. If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.

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