linear vs. cyclic


I guess, one way to look at things is that there are two fundamental concepts at how to look at things. Either you think of things as linear or cyclic: Life, the universe and everything. What about life? Does it have a beginning and an end, are we born out of nothing and fade into nothingness again? Or is it rather a cycle of life and death, spring and autumn; are we reborn in one way or another? Same with the universe: was the Big Bang really the beginning? Or does the whole universe fold out only to collapse again, and to fold out again? And yes, ultimately it’s the same with everything: do we think of them as linear or as cyclic?

The weird thing is that within the framework of logic, you can’t explain something coming into existence out of nothing. It’s not possible as logic is the study of deriving a conclusion based solely on what is known before. It’s a strictly linear process. Something before the beginning simply doesn’t exist. In this framework of thinking, the pursuit of progress is one of the highest goals, because you need to make use of the limited time before the end.

Thinking of life and everything as of cyclic processes is extremely relaxing and liberating. You are under virtually no pressure to achieve any set goal or make any progress in a certain time period because you have infinite time. If not in this life, then in the next. Eternity is then a reality.

Both ways of living can be extremely rewarding. The pleasure of having achieved something, of having made progress, as well as the pure pleasure of experienced stimuli. I guess that’s where my previous post about happiness fits into the picture. My conclusion for now is the same as with many things: the key is to find the right balance between the two.

I feel like related concepts that go with the cyclist vs. linear concept are:

cyclist vs. linear
static vs. progressive
save vs. dangerous
holistic, communitarian vs. individualistic, liberal
man is part of the environment vs. man controls his environment
‘eastern’ vs. ‘western’ philosophy



I watched this video of a talk by Martin Seligman on (there are really tons of videos of great talks from TED conferences there). He is a psychologist and when he talks about happiness in his framework of positive psychology, he seperates happiness into three different kind of things:

  1. Pleasure – this form of happiness is about senses, emotions, makes you laugh spontaneously or giggling and is quite short-lived, heritable and not that much modifiable by yourself.
  2. Engagement – this form is about being in the zone, you are just so occupied, concentrated and engaged in a fulfilling task (be it social activity, work or a hobby). Time passes on the fly, you never feel bored.
  3. Meaning in Live – Do you feel your personal live has a purpose or meaning? Do you already know it or are in search for it? Are you content in looking for it, for all your live, or does it make you restless not knowing what your place in the universe is? This is a lot about religion and your personal life-philosophy.

You can fill out different forms at that website of his and see how happy you are… quite funny actually. And they are quite transparent, if you know the theory behind it, you see the questions were crafted scientifically.