It’s the circle of life, and it moves us all! Don’t you remember the Lion King. Ok-so we can pretty much bet that the Walt Disney Corporation, no matter how many times it ripped of Shakespeare–did not come up with the term. Likely, the origin is in religion or spirituality. The Egyptian ANKH is the symbol of life, and is crowned with a loop–or circle–that some say represents the sunrise. Others think it has something to do with rebirth–or “the circle of life.” The term, or at least the idea, was widely used in Native American mythology and spiritual teachings, such as the medicine wheel.
Aside from popularization in The Lion King, the idea of an interconnected system of life dates as far back as the ecological sciences. Linnean taxonomy emphasized interrelationships among animals, as did Thoreau’s transcendentalism, and, more recently, The Gaia Hypothesis, which theorizes that all life acts like vital organs in a larger planetary organism. The ‘circle of life’ is a symbol for the primary maxims of the ecological sciences: diversity, evolution by natural advantage, interrelationships and interconnectivity.
Before the Lion King or the creation of taxonomy, religions like Buddhism espoused the idea of cyclical existence. Many Buddhists believe beings are reborn in one of six realms (as a human, animal, hungry ghost, god, demigod, or hell-being). Another example of circular imagery in Buddhism is the Tibetan Wheel of Life, turned by Yama, the lord of death.
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