Cycles and Generations

The cycles of our society are similar to all natural cycles. Understanding them gives insight into our future direction.

One of the things about the Generational cycles described by Howe and Strauss is that they point to cycles within cycles. As I mentioned in my previous post, they suggest that there are four “turnings” or parts of a cycle related to generations. These four turnings together total between 85 and 100 years, the length of a long human life. Of course, there are other natural cycles that occur inside of these turnings. The most obvious is the cycle of years, with the four seasons. Recently I heard Obama referring to this time of crisis as our “Winter of our Hardship” and he is right on with that. Each year has a natural cycle (Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter) and the turnings of the generations line up with these as well (High, Awakening, Unraveling, Crisis). One way to look at all this is a sort of “fractal” made up of ever smaller cycles. If you consider my overview of the generations chart (click on any of these images to enlarge):
turnings-chart1

You can see the red line that goes up and down with each portion of the turnings (shown on the top). This line describes the overall “gestalt” of society at that time. But there is another cycle inside of that cycle, represented by the “maginification” chart below:

fractal-cycles-01

The high and low represented in this chart are the actual seasons, Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall. Those fit inside of the generational cycle and are shown in the “magnified” portion of the chart. The point is that there are cycles within cycles.

That’s one way to look at the way cycles are nested inside each other, but a much better approach is to create a circular chart. For example, if we consider the High and Low portion of a day (Noon and Midnight) respectively, we get a circle like this:

day-cycle-01-05

This shows the 24 hours of the day, with high noon at the top, and Midnight at the bottom. The red line in the center represents the “high” (Noon) and “low” (Midnight) of the day. When the red line meets the outer circle it is the high point of the day, and when it hits the middle of the circle it is the low. It is interesting how this cycle turns into a heart shape on a circular chart (I think there is some name given to that type of shape on a circle). 

We can represent other natural cycles with this same shape. The Lunar cycle can be shown like this:

lunar-cycle-05

If we start at the top we have the Full moon, then the Waning moon, New moon, Waxing moon and then returning to the Full moon. Again the red line represents the “high” and the “low” of the cycle.

Next would be the yearly cycle, with the seasons:

annual-cycle-05-06

The cycle that Strauss and Howe propose is outside of that is the “Saeculum” which is the 85-100 year cycle that defines the high and low of society:

saecular-cycle-07

As we can see, this pattern can repeat multiple times as we go further and further out. These are all natural cycles that definitely affect even our modern society (most people do sleep at night and get outside more in the Summer). Often we don’t realize just how much these cycles affect us (see my post on linear thinking), but they that does not lessen their effect. The turnings are a natural cycle as well because they are based on a natural phenomenon (a human lifetime).

We can put all those cycles onto one chart and they look like this:

cycles-complete-01

So here is the big question I get out of this chart. If there is some relationship between the natural cycles (day, month, year, turning) then what is the larger cycle outside of the saeculum? I have some ideas about this that I will put in another post, but I would love to hear readers thoughts and comments.

Also, I am not sure that I got the cycles lined up properly. Spring goes with the Saecular High, but does that correspond to the Full Moon, and Noon?

One thing I have noticed when I show this circular chart to people is that they are often puzzled by what it represents. Unlike the linear chart above, which makes sense to most Western thinkers, the use of a circular chart can be confusing, even though it shows the information in a much more coherent way. That is part of our linear thinking as well, and something I still struggle with. I still need to make the linear charts first before I can put them in a circle. I have several other circular charts that I will describe in later posts.

3 thoughts on “Cycles and Generations”

  1. Hi Dave,
    Thanks for commenting at my blog today. I am so glad you found me, as I find your blog FASCINATING. It is the kind of place I could really get lost in for hours. Don’t have the time now, but I will return later to read all of your back posts. You and Jenx67 are the more serious flipside of my blog, for the ‘thinking’ person.

    I’ll be back!

  2. My mind is having such a hard time figuring out how the cycles represented linear make that heart shape within a circle when represented circularly. Would you mind explaining how that works? Do you have any other websites/images that would help my linear brain to better understand this circular image? Thank you so much!

    1. J – The idea is that when the red lines are at the center (6 O’clock position) then that measure is at it’s lowest. When they are at the outer edge (12 O’clock position) then they are at their peak. So the diagram shows the exact same thing as the linear one, but just in a circular view. I hope that helps.

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