This Autumn, let something die. I first read that phrase by Asia Suler a few years ago. Every time I read it again, it makes me wonder why we are so afraid of death, of letting things go, of decline, of allowing something that has run its course to fade into whatever lies beyond. It makes me wonder how to exist in a world that is so intent on holding on, be it to constant personal growth, the quest for happiness, or the ideal way of inhabiting a human body on the planet earth. There are, of course, opportunities for learning new things – growth – throughout a human lifespan. But there is also a place for allowing what is simply to be what is — without the push to enhance it by more growth. And yes, there is also the place for letting things die.
Autumn is all about the process of decline. The leaves finish their growing, peak in a yellow or red or orange brilliance, and fall the the ground. In doing so the earth comes into the elderhood of the seasonal cycle. A tree doesn’t try to keep its foliage green all the time — it lets those leaves fall every year, and I’d imagine gains the sort of wisdom a tree needs in doing so.
“Elderhood is the antidote to personal growth,” Stephen Jenkinson says. An antidote for personal growth? Our modern culture doesn’t usually declare growth as a problem, does it? “Growth mindset” seems to be the desired state of being. Shatter your ceiling, we say. Sky’s the limit, we proclaim. Never give up, we advise. Luckily for us, the earth doesn’t listen to such advice and continues with its timely decline, year after year. According to Jenkinson, “There is something about limit and ending that conjures elderhood from age.” If we pay attention to that cycle, we can learn something about what it could mean to truly come of age.
There is a time for growth and cultivation. There is a time for fully using what is harvested from those efforts. And, once things have run their course, there is a time for decline.
So, taking Asia’s advice, this autumn, let something die. Just try it on. Learn what you need to learn, grow how you need to grow, but let go of what needs to die, too.
Let go of the feeling that you are somehow not good enough.
Because every imperfect apple that lays soft in your hands, and every ray of low Autumn sunlight that warms you through woolens will tell you a different story, a much truer story. The story that you are more, much more, than enough. That you bless this world simply by being alive. [Asia Suler]
Remember that last sentence. You bless this world simply by being alive. Being alive and constant growth are not the same thing. Being alive means embodying a full cycle: growth, blossoming, harvest, and decline.
**part of this post was adapted into a chapter in Collisions of Earth and Sky.