Diameters vs. degrees

Driving back from a visit to family yesterday in the steady misty rain, I thought about circles and perspectives.  On the road, I tend to fixate on the signs of all kinds, reading every one as I pass, and the habit is limiting.  So with an effort of will, I move my vision to the surrounding landscape, and view the trees and hills instead.  Accompanying the switch is a release of the mind, from the mundane to the sublime.

We are each the center of our worlds, and the circle around us describes our awareness.  But because we westerners tend to think linearly, we often just gaze out, instead of around.  We look to widen our circle, and admire the reach of those with gigantic tribes surrounding their centers.  We respect diameter, but seldom put much thought into degrees.

The number of degrees in a circle is infinite.  Unlike the infinity of diameter, which stretches indefinitely in front of us, the infinity of degrees keeps the focus on the center, on our selves right where we are.  Rather than striving to move from A to B, with concentration on the degrees of your circle, the challenge is to gather rather than grasp, to refine rather than expand, to study the fullness of what is rather than endlessly covet strategic growth.

I wonder if this analogy is apt in suggesting new ways to approach economic health.  The 20th century was all about extending reach and the worship of size.  The perspective served its purposes, but now we see the concommitant waste, pollution, international tensions, and injustice that result when forward progress alone is the ideal.  Now we are beginning to think more about the quality of perception; about how tending to all the degrees of our circles is healthier and more rewarding than focusing solely on their diameters. 

When considering how to deal with business losses and the prospect of sluggish sales for many months yet to come, the image of the circle perhaps can help.  Seth Godin has championed tribes, and this idea is very similar.  The concept is about the quality of your service and relationships, the authenticity of your participation in society, the generosity and efficacy of your offerings.  It’s about examining the opportunities that already exist for you, and achieving success by making the most of them.  It’s about creativity and a heightened sense of appreciation.  It is no longer about dominion and fame; ‘progress’ in today’s world means exploring the numberless degrees of your circle, and actually being careful not to fix your vision on any one outward direction.


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