Seasons and Stagnation
Make like Nature, and grow.
Garrett Kincaid – August 13, 2023
Acts and expects nothing,
Accomplishes and does not linger,
Has no desire to seem worthy. – Lao Tzu 
Life is a series of seasons, and to stay in any one season is stagnation. The stagnant get sunburns and frostbite for fearing the Fall and Spring. Life is kinder to those who invite the change of the seasons; Nature is aligned with those who train themselves in transition.
“Season” is more of a verb than it is a noun. The word comes from the Latin serere, meaning “to sow” — from the craft and careful chore of planting what you want to grow. And each of the four seasons corresponds to a different part of this process. Spring is the time to sow something. During Summer, it grows. Fall is the harvest. And during Winter, you decide what you will sow next Spring.
Seasons are not rigid windows of time, as we typically treat them. Seasons don’t really start and end according to dates on a calendar. Seasons are fluid and felt, yet they are conclusive. This is true for the seasons of Nature and for the seasons of your life.
Summer starts the moment I catch a firefly, and it ends when I hear the crunch of brown leaves and feel a brisk breeze. Winter only starts once I’ve tasted snow, and it ends when I see the first traces of green again.
The seasons of life don’t depend on climate, hemisphere, or the month of the year. The seasons of life depend on your current mode of living. In Fall, you get accepted to college, close a big deal, or publish a book. In Winter, you settle in to that new situation and decide what to focus on next. Come Spring, you launch into a new project — committing to fitness, creating a business, or entering a new relationship. In Summer you make progress; you work out, build the business, or grow closer to your partner.
The seasons of life are fluid and felt, yet they are conclusive. There’s no way to predict the next solstice, and the cycle only goes in one direction. You can’t return to Fall from Winter; if you want another harvest, you’ll have to work through the next Spring and Summer.
So much suffering in life comes from resisting its seasonality. To prevent change, we avoid commitment or cling to what we have with a feverish certainty.
The indecisive can’t choose a crop to sow, so they don’t grow anything and get stuck in Winter — stuck without the habits, career, or relationships they want. The indecisive fear the Spring and freeze at the thought of commitment. The restless can’t bear to lose what they’ve grown, so they forestall the harvest — clinging to what they have because it has become their identity and sole source of meaning. The restless fear the Fall and burnout on one crop. The indecisive and restless fear change and long for certainty and security. But that’s not the way of the Universe.
If you must fear something, fear stagnation. It’s unnatural to be unchanging. Instead of hoping for a static utopia, align yourself with the seasonality of life. Those who invite change and embrace uncertainty do not fear the Fall or Spring. Those who are satisfied with the seasonality of life do not rush toward change or resist it. They accept change as the fundamental constant of the Universe.
You have no choice as to whether you will change, but you can choose how you change. So make like Nature, and grow.
This short-form piece was originally published on my Substack, The Intronaut. Consider subscribing for philosophical food for thought, served to your inbox.
- Tao Te Ching, Chapter 77, translated by Stephen Addis and Stanley Lombardo