"Everything will change. The only question is growing up or decaying."

—Nikki Giovanni

Whether we grow up or decay ...?

Is one still learning, striving, increasing in strength and capacity? Is one expanding, stretching, becoming more?

Is one unlearning, relaxing, diminishing in ability and means? Is one contracting, withdrawing, becoming less?

Life cycles. We encounter them daily. We are being formed in our mothers’ wombs, birthed into our own being, shaped by experience, pushed by pain and loss.

Life cycles. We retreat, let go of control, ease into the moment and go with the flow.

Life cycles. We release, stop and cease.

The latter is a much greater challenge. We as individuals really understand the concepts of growth and improvement, especially in this American cultural landscape. We readily accept notions of self-improvement, or pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, of being self-made. We visualize home improvements, ladder-climbing and the next-best-thing.

We don’t do so well with loss, grief or the shame of not increasing, much less keeping up with the social media influencers.

In my years of living in and among the wonderful neighbors of Washington and Smyth counties, Virginia, I have recognized that most of us are motivated by things other than what media tells us we should care about. We already know intimately and communally about life cycles. We know about growth and decline.

Our nation may not quite understand the notion of all things changing. Our nation does not seem to well comprehend the questions of “Are we growing?” or “Are we declining?”

With both an insider and an outsider view, I watch as my American neighbors continue to focus on increase and domination. But again, I hear the poets speak. Nikki Giovanni offers an impassioned reflection, even though it is not focused on the well-being of our nation.

Are we — the collective America — growing up? Or are we decaying? Where are we in the life cycle?

To nations and peoples who are centuries older than we, what lessons can we learn about decaying and being born again out of this hard earth? Rising up and being made new?

This is a difficult question for any person or group to consider. As we approach the celebration of our birth as a nation, what can we learn anew?

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Longing to breathe deeply and to walk with others as they seek to meet their longings, C.A. Rollins writes and invites you to reflect with her at carollinswrites@gmail.com.

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