Wheel of Life

Like other pilgrims over the centuries, I’m inspired by images carved into cathedrals’ stone walls. During the Middle Ages, when many were illiterate, these illustrations taught people what a thousand words could not.

This Wheel of Life is one of my favorite icons: it suggests a timeless and positive way to look at change. I’m thinking today how I can apply this visual metaphor to my writing career, the topics and characters I’m writing about, and other aspects of my journey through life.
At the top of the wheel, you’ll see a well-dressed and smiling king or queen. This is the position of Happiness.
Notice that the wheel doesn’t stay static. The carefree individual from the top of the wheel soon appears to be in distress, upside down and falling through space. This is the position of Loss.
As the wheel continues in its forward momentum, the once-happy individual from the top of the wheel is now at its bottom – naked and being dragged through the mud. This is the position of Suffering.
The wheel persists along its path, and the traveler, once again clothed, rises up to the position of Hope.
Maybe we could use this picture to teach each other. I’m wondering: What does this illustration suggest to you?


  1. Everything is transient. Enjoy it when you are happy because one day you will be sad. When you’re sad, don’t despair because happier days are coming. Also, don’t be envious of others’ success, we are all on the wheel, one day they will experience loss and you will be successful – try to help and encourage each other wherever you are on the wheel.

  2. Being at the top of the wheel at the height of happiness does not mean you cannot also be at the bottom in the depths of despair. Different parts of your life and your mind can be at different stations of the wheel as you struggle to turn it. Trying to force all aspects of your life into the same position may cause more suffering than letting the cycle continue naturally.

  3. The first thing that caught my attention is that the woman turning the wheel has glasses on – can she see? Is the wheel of life blindly turning around – never stopping when people fall off because it doesn’t notice?

    • Oh, wow. I hadn’t noticed! What an interesting perspective — and question — you’ve given me to think about! It’s probably another metaphor for something… Hmmmm…I’ll have to think about what that means. Thanks!

      • I was just going to ask…So who’s the lady who gets to spin the Wheel? But she’s got dark black glasses on. Does this mean that the Wheel of Life is an unbiased rotator of fortune? That she blindly continues to spin the Wheel regardless of who’s clutching to its wooden frame? I dunno.

        • I’m thinking she must be Fate. Or justice — after all, justice is supposed to be blind. Hmmm.

          Interesting that the person *on* the wheel seems to have no control over the spin of the wheel.

          Hey, did you manage to get tix to the Festival of Books? I’m clutching a wad of coveted YA session tickets in my tight little fists. LOL

          • Yeah, I got tickets. I’m going to all 3 YA panels and 2 other ones. If my carpool buddy from CSULB falls through, wanna carpool? See you at PFL.

  4. I like this. I think it’s something every person on the planet can relate to, we’ve all been in these different stages at one point or another.

    It strikes me that while happiness is seemingly the most coveted position on the wheel, I think I’d rather be in the position of hope. In loss or in suffering we need hope to get past it, but even in happiness, you must have hope or else what is left for the future? Hope gives a reason to go forward.

    And, I agree that we can be in several different places on the wheel at the same time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *