The symbol of conscious consistency, mother-earth, and form both complete and incomplete, perfect and imperfect, we meet the square. With its straight lines interconnected at right angles, with its rigid uniformity, it serves as an image of conscious control, without the interweaving curves, arcs, and general constant change in perspective of the circle, or any curving shape. Just as a circle might indicate the whole picture, a completed analogy, or an enlightening metaphor, so does the square show the necessity of practice, routine, and regular habit. If a brilliant metaphor illuminates a course in a moment, the routine of the square illustrates the day-in and day-out struggle of slowly perfecting a craft.

For example, if one is a power-lifter, and one only trains three main lifts: squat, deadlift, and bench-press, well the majority of one’s days involve training, accessory work, and just tons of volume of lifting at sub-maximal weights. Very few days does one see major personal records. It is the same across sports and even in more classical endeavors. It is a beautiful thing reading a line from Vergil’s Aeneid in the Latin original and leaving it untranslated and savored as a whole in one’s mind–arma virumque cano. But the vast majority of my days studying Latin involve copying down and drilling paradigms and struggling through lexicons for obscure (and common) words. That is the province of the square–the regular, the every-day, the conscious willing which inches one towards the completion of any endeavor. And when it is does correctly, and does not fall into mindless repetition, each day, though structured similarly, has its own uniquely creative aspect.

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That said, the square also shares in that deformity as well–it may be a purely conscious endeavor unconnected with one’s personal myth, vocation, or teleology. If this is so, then one’s personal libido (energy store) begins to be depleted, and what inspiration begins and generally meaningful activity continues on becomes so much hum-drum that is only a parrot-discipline, lifeless routine. Think of someone you might call a square who never “thinks outside the box.”

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Plain and uniform, it represents the negative aspect of infinity as endless, Sisyphean routine. When properly aligned with the circle, however, one’s conscious movement curves with new perspective and goes in straight lines in order to achieve a conscious purpose.

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Against the conscious nature of a square as a representation of routine, it is also a symbol of order through the insight into necessity which an ordered or disciplined life begets. Though David Hume is undoubtedly correct in saying that we never truly and fully know the connection between cause and effect, through consciously willed-directed activity, one almost always sees results: whether in the gym, learning a language, or acquiring or refining any new skill, one understands that regularly directed and refined energy used in the service of practicing a skill, will improve one’s capabilities over time–to whatever extent one’s consciousness, or talent, allows–until (or unless) one “takes the next step” in a spiral-like fashion. In philosophy, necessity denotes an action which must occur or a conclusion that must be reached, without exception. Therefore, physical cause and effect falls short of necessity’s pristine perfection, but in this temporal, mutable, and fallible sphere, one’s own conscious efforts towards embracing the connections between cause and effect (by repeatedly employing a cause, training, in order to produce an effect, performing better) helps one to see, as far as is consciously possible, that the cause of something, though invisible, is that which is universal and immortal, whereas the effect, which received so much attention, is simply temporal and soon-to-fade. Squares represent that regularity which teaches one about the eternal principles that govern the temporary consequences.

So, just as the a city is measured by its blocks, and we measure our land by acreage, or square meters and square feet, so is our life largely measured by that which we regularly do. Just as Plato says that squares represent the “earth element” in his Timaeus, or that which is most stable in our lives, so does Aristotle assert that good habit, as opposed to simple routine, is one of the keys to a happy or meaningful existence. Therefore, just as the body is the necessary receptive principle of the active principle of the soul, so is the square necessarily conjoined to the circle in its representation of life. Circles show the path in all its perfected completeness, a whole story told. Squares show the method by which one practices to get there, with regular and steady consistency.


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