“Each indigenous culture elaborates this recognition of metamorphosis in its own fashion… ” The Spell of The Sensuous. David Abram
What does metamorphosis mean to you?
Have you witnessed or created a metamorphosis of yourself or a situation?
This question has had me thinking for many hours.
Complete metamorphosis, as in singular and total rearrangement of systems (as in caterpillar to butterfly in one step), has not happened, and there have been many substantial changes in both form and function over longer periods.
As a child, I was always the last one chosen for any sports team, and was usually the smallest in my class. I was short, chubby, uncoordinated; my feet splayed out at about 30 degrees outwards, so running was almost impossible (I suspect being hit from behind by a charging ram and thrown 30ft over a fence, at 3 years old, was responsible for lifelong back pain), I was really unfit, unable to support my own weight on my arms, the smallest measured lung capacity in my class at 14. Then I decided to change things. I consciously twisted my feet straight ahead, and practised consciously for an hour a day every day, and walking that way between classes every time. Within 6 months my feet were pointing straight ahead (my knees were knocking together, but feet were straight) and my running speed was starting to increase. I was still the smallest kid in the class, then at 16 I started to grow. In two years I grew 14 inches. Everything hurt, and I was uncoordinated all over again. But I persisted, and coordination started to develop – Judo, Karate, hockey, golf, basketball, skiing, cycling – all improved coordination and balance. Then I started diving. Practice at breath holding – an hour every night, and a couple of hours in the pool most days, and a few hours at sea most weekends. Within 4 years my lung capacity went from 1.5 to 4.5 litres.
I started running seriously, barefoot, on gravel roads, minimum 4 miles every evening. Fitness started to improve.
The metamorphosis from the 14 year old kid who was 5 ft tall and last at everything sporty and could hold his breath for about 20 seconds, to the 6’2″ 25 year old who was playing hockey and basketball and could hold his breath for 7 minutes was profound.
I was still profoundly shy, and would stutter my way through a conversation with a stranger, but slowly that changed. I engaged in committees, stood for parliament, and forced myself to knock on doors and talk to people, and listen to people. Slowly the shyness and stuttering eased then disappeared.
Now I can talk to any sized group about any topic, and deal with any question, even if the only answer I can give is – I’m sorry, but I just don’t have enough information to answer that question with any confidence – anything I might say would be very speculative.
At the conceptual level, the transformations have been similarly profound.
To go from the certainty of youth, to profound uncertainty, has been an interesting journey.
I now have operational confidence about many things (things I happily trust my life to within certain boundaries), and the closer I get to the boundaries, the less confidence I have, and the further I go past the boundaries the more cautious I become.
I have gone from being the playground exile, the one most picked on, most excluded, to a community leader in many different areas. Seen over a sufficiently long period, the metamorphosis is profound, yet at each step on the journey, the changes have been relatively small. First the choice, the determined persistent action, and finally a new way of being that is easy and natural.
At the intellectual level, the journey has been similar. Self study of Einstein, Goedel, programming, evolution, artificial intelligence, economics, history, politics, logic, strategy, modes of thought, cultural modalities, philosophy and so much more. I am left without truth. All I have is probabilities, uncertainties – at so many different levels. I have on occasion reached twelve levels of abstraction, but the uncertainties that far out are so profound, that I now rarely exceed 3 levels in practice, and I can go much deeper, if the need arises.
I can no longer hold my breath for 7 minutes, I have not kept up the discipline required, and I can still do three minutes, and practice that reasonably frequently (most months), and still do disciplined breathing practice most days.
So seen on a sufficient time scale, the metamorphosis is profound, at many different levels, ways of being, ways of thinking, conceptual tools in operational use. Yet the journey has mostly been one small step at a time. Certainly occasional transformative moments, new insights, new abstractions, new intuitions, new distinctions, and always followed by a period of disciplined use, integration and assimilation.
A very personal journey, a very personal set of metamorphoses.
The idea of cause and effect, as hard consequence, is a very simple binary sort of notion. It is the sort of notion that children must first distinguish.
It seems clear to me that the notion of cause and effect is an approximation.
It seems very probable that all such relationships are based on probability functions.
Some of those probabilities have quite tight distributions, and most probability distributions have long low probability “tails”.
Certainly there is awe.
Systems upon systems upon systems.
Even quite simple systems can have infinite complexity – one simple example on my blog at https://tedhowardnz.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/playing-with-chaos/
(as you have seen before).
It seems that evolution, in both its competitive and cooperative forms have delivered many layers of systems interconnected in many subtle ways.
It seems that our intentionality and choice are a very thin skin atop this mass of systems.
A matter for awe indeed!!!