I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about the different way we perceive beginnings and endings.

It seems to me that beginnings are greeted with joy, quite possibly in anticipation of what is to come, while endings are often seen as a sort of failure, a death, something grim and poignant in its inevitability.

And this puzzles me, because so many of our journeys in life are circular:  after following a path of exploration, we arrive back where we started, only, as Eliot so rightly said, to know the place for the first time.  We have been changed by the journey, we’ve learned and grown and hurt and laughed and cried.  We’ve lived.  And yet, this experience often seems to have little value in comparison to the inexorable sense of sadness and defeat at an ‘ending.’

Take our reaction to babies, for example.  They arrive into this world, blinking and wailing after a squashing, squeezing trip down a sort of internal water slide, red from the exertion, wrinkled and covered in goo, their skulls often compressed into very odd shapes.  Yet they’re instantly proclaimed ‘beautiful,’ their birth heralded with all the adoration due a dauphin, no matter how humble their situation.  I was just such an infant, and I’m sure my mother kissed my chubby belly and proclaimed my fat thighs to be the quintessence of loveliness.

Strangely, as I grew older, those same fat thighs and near identical chubby belly began to attract something other than praise!  But I digress …

The wrinkles on a baby are part of their charm, but, in our society, the wrinkles on the old are viewed as part and parcel of an unavoidable decay.

The Japanese have a term, ‘nagare,’ which refers to the natural flowing back of life and energy to its source:  a birthing-growing-decaying cycle which is a joy to behold in all its stages.  I see it all around me in the natural world.  I saw it on the beach not long ago when I came across this natural sculpture, half buried in the sand … a delicate, intricate jigsaw of line and circle and tone, made no less beautiful because it was once a living thing.

The spirit (or life force if you prefer) of this creature has departed … gone, I like to believe, back to its source … and its physical form is following suit.

Rather than viewing this as putrefaction, I see its beauty.  I hope the day will come when I see this beauty in the endings of all the things and creatures I love, but I believe this will require more enlightenment than I currently possess.

But then, I have faith that this enlightenment will return.  As a baby, I blithely accepted the cavalcade of the world’s business, as those who cared for me came and went, tending to my needs, caressing me with love and baby powder.  As I grow older, and yet older, finally returning to the source of my life, I trust I will embrace that perfect acceptance once more.

I will regard my wrinkles, and yes, even my chubby belly, and hopefully see the beauty of a journey well-taken, from beginning to middle to ending.  Something to be appreciated, and remembered, and finally released.