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The Daily Tar Heel

Paying Homage to a Crude Circle

For some reason I'm thinking of now.

This minute, much later, on the verge of spring. One of two verbs, one falling, one leaping. This one gives birth, for the living rebirth, and some say, redemption for the dead. It's redemptive because the dead live on, through the living.

It's a circle. They gave us a way, and words I speak not in any clear manner. Just in the mood am I to say: "That's spring. The atmosphere descends; the trails are hedged with leaves; vines twist along the sides of buildings."

You ever see it?

Spring lends a sense of rebirth, leant because it takes it up again in summer. They're a pair, summer and spring, conceived of a single letter and ours a mere a feeling, a sense perceived in the mind beyond the normal five but curiously fueled by them.

Touch the warm air, after Winter's cold. See the lusty shoots springing from an earthen cocoon, and the color of a new world, of green, blue, and the odd fusion of lights and yellow painted over the sound of His howl.

Tastes sweet, or better sour, a lemon. Or a twig, a leaf, a nut.


In the mind the breath assumes a familiar quality. It seems new, like other things, by its coolness. Better birth a physical world, like a world in the mind made new by the air it breathes.

Alike the season makes us new, or so we sense, though not a thing is new but space-born rocks cracking the earthen bubble. Meteors, and all below is variation. The same water, rock and air but with variance. Where does it begin? Where does it end?

Life, they say, begins with conception. But what was conceived?

Many things, for each passing of a season is an end giving way to new. Yet each beginning has its end. Spring finds summer as summer fall, and fall winter, and then spring again.

It makes a circle.

Persons move in a similar vein, hovering elliptically about the center.

What is striking about our picture is there is no true end or beginning, just circles, endlessly but for the tiniest of breaks, a sad fate that awaits us all, truly, death. There's a hope we'll live on through children, yet we fear, as the fingers don't quite touch, all in time will end.

So our lives move on that way, with no beginning or end, within a framework bent similarly: summer, fall, winter, spring. Stages, steps neither up nor down, from one end to the other and back again.

Occasionally, checkpoints. Sign in, sign out. As you please, and think for yourself. But the more you fill your name, the more checks, the more chores, new names and titles.

It's enough to get by, enough to fill the needs and feel comfortable. It's an effort not to think of seasons, not of howling birds passing with the clouds overhead. It's a getting-by complicated to the point that we are taken up in it.

It feels artificial, in fact, we call it artificial because it feels as though it is. Ours is an artificial manner of satisfying needs.

A system, like seasons, or a "fiscal" year. A calendar, a rain check.

What we save for later is an idea of it, a notion of the future that never pans out. Sweeter than reality is the idea of it, bittersweet is the memory of what could have been.

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Maybe there are some other things, like a big contract we sign when we're born, a social contract that tells the others to keep us in line for our best interests. It's not a line we cross either, rather it is a line in which we wait. For what?

There are more contracts, later, after we've been taught to read. The more we sign the more we get to do, though the more we get to do the more we realize what we've given up.

It's nothing we gave up physically. Not a flower, not its pot. Just a conceptual square, or the possibility of it. The square of life, not the circle.

Is that how it is supposed to go?

Maybe Summer will tell us.

Spring says it's time to find work, summer work to fill the time between classes. The dead dictate: "We'll reduce ourselves to a single page, and send the page in our spirit forth." It's an artful way of telling others we need them and they could need us.

But what do they see?

A phantom of the self, surely, no less.

Eventually it will be for good. We'll settle into the calendar of our years and form the routine of every day. And every day, by the thousand, will paint its own variation, so that many together form an impression of a time.

Then times pass, and people.

Meanwhile the seasons march.

It's a crude circle, telling: "Just as we tarry in the framework of a system handed down from the dead, so must that system be in the framework of the seasons, which themselves are subsumed by the framework of finitude, which all things, large or small, physical or merely conceptual, share."

It's a complex circle, simply, a crude circle.

Paul Tharp is a first-year law student.

Reach him with any questions, comments at

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