Friday, October 26, 2007

Closure and the Cycle

"Life and death are balanced on the edge of a razor." - Homer, Iliad

There are times in our lives when we are forced to recognize the frailty of our existence. Times when we seek answers to questions that have no solutions. Times when closure is nothing more than a figment of our imagination.

Two friends of mine have passed away recently, far earlier than they should have. Both were kind, good-hearted people who made the world a better place for not only friends and family, but for everyone they touched. And many are now left asking why they were taken from us so early.

But life does not usually give us straight answers. Life is fickle and stubborn and secretive. The game of Life is not fair and the rules we play by are not really rules at all but merely a socially-constructed framework through which we navigate the sliding scale of good and bad and the foundation of how we are ultimately remembered when we die.

But what of the closure we seek when someone close to us passes away? Depending on how you view the subject, death only represents the end of the physical body we inhabit. Therefore closure is something of a misnomer for those that believe memories can sustain a relationship beyond what we can see and touch. In fact, closure may be a purely pschological construct.

Interestingly, Gestalt psychology acknowledges the so-called Law of Closure with the following definition:

The mind may experience elements it does not perceive through sensation, in order to complete a regular figure (i.e., to increase regularity).

Although this "Law" is most often represented by the perceptual completion of an image, it can also apply to the way many people deal with death. Our brains are naturally wired so that we strive for closure of the incomplete. And what could be more painfully incomplete than a relationship with someone who has passed away earlier than we were prepared for?

In my personal quest to find regularity and closure...I have come to the conclusion that, in all likelihood, neither exists outside the feeble confines of my brain. The only constant is change and closure in a psychological sense relies so heavily on subjective input that it can rarely, if ever, be considered "real."

Regardless, in my own search for closure I have been reverting to my comfort zone of cycling recently and keep coming back to the situation that Floyd Landis has found himself in. If there is ever someone who has been forced to deal with an absence of closure over the past year, it's Floyd.

Beginning with his positive result in the Tour, to the suicide of his Father-In-Law and now through the first arbitration hearing and on to his appeal to the can only imagine that there has been little closure in Floyd's life over the past year. And one can only imagine how difficult these unresolved events must have been for him. Hopefully the bike has remained consistent in its support.

It's interesting to me that I find so much comfort in cycling because in many fundamental ways, the bicycle often provides me with the best understanding of closure and the cyclical nature of life and the world as I know it. But then again, my definitions of these terms may not be typical.

In psychology, closure refers to the state of experiencing an emotional conclusion to a difficult life event. In physics, a cycle is defined as "A sequence of changing states that, upon completion, produces a final state identical to the original one."

Cycling is my therapy. There is a conclusion to every ride and I inevitably return home with a deeper appreciation for life than when I left. In this sense, riding is not truly cyclical because I am fundamentally changed by the process. And as a result, I am often far better prepared to handle the stresses and trauma of daily life, both physically and mentally.

We are all racking up miles in the ride of life and we never know what lies on the road ahead. So enjoy the scenery and take time to reflect on the lessons that those who pass before us can teach. Thank you Gary and will be missed.

“Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see Life with a clearer view again.” – Alex Tan

Carpe Diem

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