Circles represent many things to many people: commitment (as in wedding rings), cycles (as in the circle of life), connections (as in there is no beginning and no end). They are ancient and universal symbols representing unity, wholeness, and infinity.
Learning unifies us as humans and makes us whole. We learn by connecting to other people and their ideas, and we learn by sharing what we know with others. We develop a circle of friends, colleagues, mentors, and role-models with whom we learn every day.
Draw a circle around a word or a picture and your eye is drawn to what’s inside that circle making the word or picture inside seem more important, more valuable. The circle becomes the point of focus.
Circles show up everywhere – in nature, in art, in religious and cultural symbols, in math and physics, geography, and even in sports. They’ve been used to represent, the sun in the solar cross, directions in the compass rose, the moon, the pupils of our eyes, strength of unity, the Olympics.
The ancient Ouroboros symbol depicting a snake or dragon forming a circle by swallowing its own tail has been said to represent something constantly re-creating itself. Human beings who are lifelong learners are constantly re-creating themselves – getting better at something, honing a new skill, unlearning and re-learning.
One of the more interesting uses of the circle is in The Sacred Chao – a symbol used by Discordians to illustrate the interrelatedness of order and disorder. “It symbolizes absolutely everything anyone need ever know about absolutely anything, and more!” That’s a lot more than we can offer, but we love the sentiment.
The Celtic people drew circles as protective boundaries. Learning protects us from ignorance, from narrow-mindedness, from becoming obsolete in our workplaces.
Mathematically circles are geometrical shapes “consisting of those points in a plane which are equidistant from a given point called the center“. They have an outside and an inside . When we learn, we look both outside ourselves and within. We read, listen, watch, and discuss, but we also think deeply, synthesize, analyze, interpret, and form new understandings and relationships.
Just as the invention of the wheel – based on the circle shape – changed the world forever, learning can change a person’s life forever. Being an open, willing learner affords us often surprising opportunities to grow and change and become better. Connecting with others and contributing to our communities using what we learn can make the world a healthier, happier place.
The Japanese word for circle is ensō (円相) and it “symbolizes the Absolute, enlightenment, strength, elegance, the Universe, and the void”. In Zen Buddhist painting, ensō symbolizes a moment when the mind is free to simply let the body/spirit create. What a great way to describe the process of learning!
Four Circles Learning embraces circles as symbols for commitment to helping others, for connecting to ideas, people, and the planet, and for the continual cycle of learning and growing.