Activated - - NEWS - Cur­tis Peter van Gorder is a scriptwriter and mime artist1 in Ger­many.

Our theatre group reg­u­larly per­forms a dy­namic skit based on a mono­logue from the Shake­speare play As You Like It, where he sum­ma­rizes the sea­sons of our lives in seven stages: the cry­ing baby, the re­luc­tant school­boy, the pin­ing lover, the fierce sol­dier, the wise judge, the old man, and fi­nally death.

Shake­speare ends it there, but the Bi­ble prom­ises one more sea­son of life: ev­er­last­ing af­ter­life. So rather than end­ing the story with “mere obliv­ion,” as the Bard does, we like to end with our pro­tag­o­nist awak­en­ing in heaven—the true happy end­ing.

This play got me think­ing of the sea­sons of life I find my­self go­ing through. We live through so many cy­cles and sea­sons both big and small, and in work­ing on our var­i­ous projects, it helps to step back and see how the sea­sons work. In that way, we can know where we are in the change and growth cy­cle and what to ex­pect next. For ex­am­ple, if you’re go­ing through a tough time, you can de­rive hope from re­al­iz­ing you’re in a “win­ter,” and the spring will come with new life.

In my trav­els, I’ve no­ticed that the coun­tries that have sub­tle vari­a­tions in sea­sons have a com­pletely dif­fer­ent flora and en­ergy from the coun­tries that have more dis­tinct sea­sons.

I took a walk in the moun­tains of Ro­ma­nia re­cently and was amazed at how vi­brant life was there. Bright wild­flow­ers popped out ev­ery which way—each with its bevy of bees and other pol­li­na­tors en­sur­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of flow­ers to come. Green­ery com­peted for the sun­light in ev­ery avail­able patch of land; even the pud­dles were full of tad­poles, wa­ter strid­ers, and a myr­iad of tiny wa­ter odd­i­ties.

It seems they know that their time is short and that soon colder tem­per­a­tures will once again bring deep sleep upon the land. Peo­ple are also af­fected. It seems that those liv­ing in trop­i­cal coun­tries tend to be a bit more re­laxed and less work-ori­ented; na­ture seems to be the same way. Life seems to me­an­der along—as op­posed to sleep­ing and then ex­plod­ing.

Ap­ply­ing an un­der­stand­ing of the sea­sonal changes in our work can help us to know what to ex­pect next.

The Art of War, an an­cient Chi­nese text by the military tac­ti­cian Sun Tzu, gives an over­view of how change and in­no­va­tion oc­cur in so­ci­eties, busi­nesses, na­tions, and in­di­vid­u­als.

It presents the phases in the growth of an idea, project, in­no­va­tion, or­ga­ni­za­tion, or na­tion, as five stages or “sea­sons”: metal, wa­ter, wood, fire, and earth.

In the metal phase at the start, there is dis­con­tent. The need for change is ap­par­ent, but some­one has to get the ball rolling.

In the next phase of wa­ter, imag­i­na­tion comes into ac­tion. We play with pos­si­bil­i­ties and try to pic­ture what the ideal fu­ture for us would look like. We flow and splash around with ideas un­til we find the best one(s).

In the wood stage, we’ve picked the idea to im­ple­ment and be­gin to as­sem­ble our re­sources. We build a team and make a plan. At this stage, ef­fort of­ten seems to over­shadow re­sults.

When we en­ter the fire phase, our in­no­va­tion or project breaks out, and we be­gin to burn. We have to keep the heat and get oth­ers in­ter­ested—spread the fire to oth­ers as well.

Earth is the last phase be­fore the cy­cle re­peats it­self. Once our project is run­ning, we have to make it sus­tain­able and en­sure long-term growth with­out run­ning out of steam. We must fight de­te­ri­o­ra­tion with more in­no­va­tion or we will be­gin to lose what we’ve gained.

Each of us may be at a dif­fer­ent sea­son or stage. That’s healthy. Dis­con­tent can be help­ful to find new di­rec­tions of growth. Wa­ter and new ideas are al­ways needed to keep im­prov­ing. Wood is needed for struc­ture and putting land­ing gear on our ideas. Fire is a sign that peo­ple are get­ting some­thing done and giv­ing heat and light. Earth is needed for sta­bil­ity and to build walls of de­fense against pos­si­ble set­backs and ad­ver­sity. When all of these are present, we find our­selves in an ideal place to pros­per and bear fruit.

Je­sus is our Good Shep­herd and knows where the moun­tain streams are and how to avoid the pit­falls. If we fol­low, He will lead us into green pas­tures and help us to grow and pros­per re­gard­less of the time or the sea­son we find our­selves in.

There is a time for ev­ery­thing, and a sea­son for ev­ery ac­tiv­ity un­der the heav­ens.— Ec­cle­si­astes 3:1 NIV We all know that if the sea­sons were the same, there would be no growth. We know that with­out win­ter there would be no spring. We know that with­out frosts there would be no bulbs and with­out the mon­soon there would be no rice har­vest. In the same way, we also know that with­out sor­row there would be no joy. With­out pain there would be no heal­ing. I think that’s pre­cisely where the beauty comes in. It comes in through the fruit of the sea­sons. He has in­deed made ev­ery­thing beau­ti­ful in its time.— Naomi Reed (b. 1968)

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