The Circles of Life

Look at the Moon!
The nocturnal footbag,
counting the stars with its arc.
Noticed rarely, yet seen by all–
appreciated on occasion.

Waxing, waning, circling the circle
spinning, and revolving
around that which spins and revolves
on and on the cycle goes.
Truly God laid creation with a compass.

That endless pattern of the universe,
cascading through the microcosms.
The circuitous chain mail of what is,
and what will be.
Protecting with repetition
the wind which we chase in circles.

Why? Why do anything!
Life is meaningless, isn’t it great!
Just trally lally lally down in the base of history’s mountain.
The future will be there when we arrive!

And yet the apathy remains the frown’s witness.
The wind waters the eyes,
Just as it brings clouds to water the earth.
Who sets the celestial footbag in it’s prescribed arc?
Why does God attempt when the result is none but success?

Why do we attempt when none but failure abounds,
in the end…

The end?
What is this…”end”
There’s a first time for everything,
but is there ever a last?

Some answers will never be heard
over the din of questions asked.
Though certainly through the chain mail we can see,
That the future has no place for that which is seen,
But that the future will be a centrifugal eternity for the unseen.

Black and white will the colorless existence be.
And to the white extremity must we strive.
Though all is meaningless to our sophomoric eyes,
Our hearts are enlightened by the True Verses.

Take your example from the moon–
continue until your end,
and know, before forever begins,
the color of the unseen eternity.

After the footbag is dead.


I remember laying in bed unable to sleep and thinking about how the universe is laid out in nested microcosms of circles. On the small scale there are fundamental forces governing atoms, and those same forces give rise to similar circular patterns on a large scale. While atoms are beneath our perspective and the solar system is above our perspective, the solar system is like an atom on the scale of the universe. Things seem to expand, contract, spin, and revolve in a similar dance at every scale. I refer to this interconnected pattern of circles as “circuitous chain mail” in the poem.

Circles are also a symbol for infinity, for things that repeat cyclicly. “the wind which we chase in circles” and “though all is meaningless” are references to Ecclesiastes 1:14:

I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Throughout Ecclesiastes, Solomon lays out a logical, evidence-based argument for why wisdom, pleasures, folly, toil, advancement, and riches are all meaningless. This spirit of seeing a glimpse of eternity and being unsure what to make of it all is also expressed in Ecclesiastes 8:16-17:

When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth—people getting no sleep day or night— then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.

This thought is echoed in my poem with “There’s a first time for everything, but is there ever a last? Some answers will never be heard over the din of questions asked.”

While I’m covering literary references, there’s also “trally lally lally” which is a reference to Down in the Valley from The Hobbit. I honestly think I got mixed up and thought this was a line from one of Tom Bombadil’s songs, since Bombadil’s character has a similar disregard for the events of the world as King Solomon, being immortal and remaining largely uninvolved. The following quote from Tom captures his personality well:

Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo! Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow! Tom Bom, jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo!

Finally, I replaced “valley” with “the base of history’s mountain” in reference to Isaiah 40:4, and similar verses throughout the Bible which use the changing landscape of the Earth as an image for both the grandeur and timescale on which God operates:

Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.

The references to footbag are my way of personalizing the eternal questions of “what is the meaning of life” that Ecclesiastes addresses in the Bible. Most people have heard of Hacky Sack and Frisbee, but many may not know that those are brand names and in professional sports they are referred to as footbag and flying disc. I was an obsessive “intermediate” competitive footbagger in high school. I did footbag freestyle and would kick for hours doing dozens of specialized tricks or just seeing how long I could keep the bag in the air. Consecutives is the footbag event/sport for seeing how long you can keep the bag in the air. My record was 1982, which took about 20 minutes of continuous kicking with no drops or catches. My analogy with footbag or juggling or running is that when our goal is “go until you drop,” the result is always failure. Yet, we can always pick up and try again next time. Success is either doing better than last time or perhaps success is the state you are in until you inevitably fail. This cunundrum mirrors our lives in many ways, especially since we have constantly changing definitions of success, and inevitably we will finish our day, our week, our year, and our life having not met all our goals – having failed in some way. I find this true regardless of ones belief system.

So I liken the arc of the moon across the sky to a footbag God has kicked into motion. The entire universe is that way. Why do I bother with footbag if I’m only going to fail? Why does God bother with the universe if he’s only going to succeed? What does it mean for God to succeed or fail in his activity? What’s his endgame?

In the last 3 stanzas I make reference to how God’s endgage is black and white, as if all creation were being spun outward to one of two extremities. I say that we should continue in our arc, like the moon, implying that while we may never understand the workings of the universe, we can succeed as part of it by fulfilling our purpose, by continuing on the trajectory God put us on. As I look back on the poem and critique it, I find myself disatisfied with the end because it makes a poor attempt to answer the very question that I said is unanswerable. Perhaps this is evidence of how I feel now about the answers Solomon gives at the end of Ecclesiastes, to simply obey God and enjoy what he gave you, because trying to make yourself happy any other way is meaningless.

I wanted to share this poem because I love the imagery of a universe made of circles, the implications of eternity, the tie-in with footbag, and the mirroring of the messages in Ecclesiastes. All that said it has me frustrated and pondering the meaning of life, which – perhaps – is a greater achievement than any clever wordplay could ever hope to achieve.