Our sun has been seen on the sky since man crawled out of his cave, thousands of years ago. Admired as a big, life providing God, it was often represented with symbols such as the circle, in wall carvings and sculptures. At night, another round shape climbed the sky, reflecting light down on earth, helping man to fight total darkness. And so, one can easily why circles have been the most important shape to man, since the beginning of recorded history. Taking it a step further, a circle is also the premise of the wheel, which again is the basis for the gear and much of our modern civilization. In mathematics, the study of the circle has helped inspire the development of geometry, astronomy, and calculus. And many believe that there is something intrinsically “divine” or “perfect” that can be found in circles.
The circle shape can also be found in many other symbols throughout history. From old religions to modern day logos, it gives meaning and substance in numerous ways. Take for instance the Ouroboros, which is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail, thus creating a circle. The Ouroboros represents the perpetual cyclic renewal of life, the eternal return, and the cycle of life, death and rebirth, leading to immortality, and the beginning and end of time. It is depicted in for instance the ancient Egyptian funerary text as the Osiris, where two serpents, holding their tails in their mouths, coil around the head and feet of an enormous god, Ra.
The Ouroboros has also been described by Plato, as a self-eating, circular being as the first living thing in the universe — an immortal, mythologically constructed entity. And it can also be found In Norse mythology, where it appears as the serpent Jörmungandr, one of the three children of Loki and Angrboda, who grew so large that it could encircle the world and grasp its tail in its teeth.
In Japanese, we find the word Ensō (円相), meaning “circle”, a concept strongly associated with Zen Buddhism. Ensō is one of the most common subjects of Japanese calligraphy even though it is a symbol (depicted as a circle) and not a character. It symbolizes the Absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the Universe, and the void; it can also symbolize the Japanese aesthetic itself. As an “expression of the moment” it is often considered a form of minimalist expressionist art.
Some artists paint the ensō with an opening in the circle, while others complete the circle. For the former, the opening may express various ideas, for example that the ensō is not separate, but is part of something greater, or that imperfection is an essential and inherent aspect of existence. The break can also represent the idea that even everything is considered one, nothing lasts forever. That life has a beginning and an end.
I’ve chosen my ink to represent my values in life, ideas much like the ones above. My circle has no religious meaning. I’m a fact driven atheist with a big interest in stardust and the vacuum of space. I’m in love the beauty of life and the magic of our short lived existence, which I’ve vowed to experience as much as I can.
The circle is not designed by hand, but with smooth geometrical precision, in admiration of science and math. Fields I hold highly, next to history, philosophy and art. The sections and pieces of my illustration, is a reminder of our incompleteness. In short, they represent both our lack of knowledge and how everything is part of something bigger.
A circle is a symbol that can remind us of so much. Represented in so many fields, one can never really explain its complete meaning. Like in life, the cosmos and everything in-between, there is something key we are missing. In math the circle represents the zero, or in other words nothing. And like the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, opposites cannot exist without each other. One cannot exists without also being able to not. A realization which with we can begin our search for true enlightenment. The circle seems to be the very symbol, giving us clue as to how we can see beyond its own measurements. A fantastic metaphor where all things are one, forever in never.