Alt Title: Mandatory New Years Day Blog posting.
Alt Alt Title: Despite Yearly Best Intentions, How I Still Can’t Seem to Get to the Gym Past February.
Alt Alt Alt Title: Do No Harm, but Take No Shit.
It is a new year, by the Gregorian calendar, a time of rebirth, renewal, and a socially normalized opportunity to make promises to ourselves that we don’t particularly seem deeply invested in keeping. Possibly this is because we turn out to be fragile little flowers with too many high-falootin’ aspirations. Or it could be that we haven’t cultivated a persona that knows what goals are reasonable for who we are. Individual awareness is more important than social or situational awareness, in my opinion, and it is one facet of ourselves that we overlook most readily.
(See previous blog post outlining my thoughts on that very topic.)
As mentioned, the New Year is a period of Rebirth, but we don’t usually respect it as much as the romanticized rebirth associated with Easter in the Christian tradition, and in Spring for those of us who trend towards the safer matriarchy found in various forms of Paganism.
Having our year’s cycle start in the middle of frigid nothingness in January seems apt, even if time-keeping modes are man made, based on normalized needs, and entirely arbitrary, albeit fascinating to think about. I have never been present for an actual mammalian birth of any sort; I’m squeamish around bodily fluids and other things that I won’t detail here, as this is not a blog about motherhood and I could never do it proper justice. But I do know that We as a species tend to romanticize everything, view everything through a highly individualized filter, and in some cases, go through life with the equivalent of blinders Krazy-glue’d to our temples to maintain whatever perspective vortex is most appealing to us, despite the pesky details of reality lingering there around the edges, and happily, just out of our sight.
We edit our nostalgia so Everything is Beautiful and Nothing Hurts, but the truth is that birth is messy. Birth/rebirth comes from chaos. Elements combine, explode, and a star is born. Baby birds and reptiles struggle to free themselves from shells. Butterflies are my favorite illustration of this, as gruesomely detailed here, and is really worth reading to geek out for those of you who are into bugs and stuff. We all know caterpillars turn into butterflies, but it goes overlooked, somehow, that they literally have a complete meltdown first:
Once a caterpillar has disintegrated all of its tissues except for the imaginal discs, those discs use the protein-rich soup all around them to fuel the rapid cell division required to form the wings, antennae, legs, eyes, genitals and all the other features of an adult butterfly or moth.
Gross right? But so awesome! I completely identify with that, because every superior-to-previous-versions of myself has come out of a crisis situation. The potential benefit or catastrophe of every fork in the road laid heavily on me identifying what was within my control, what wasn’t, and how I handled those components…but more on that in a moment.
After their literal meltdown, butterflies aren’t in the clear yet. They transform into their adult selves within the protective casing of the chrysalis, but the snug nest you build isn’t supposed to be the whole of the world.
Mixing metaphors is one of my favorite things to do. As is beating a dead horse. Not literally, of course, as a dead horse is a dead horse, of course? Of course. And it does no one any good to actually beat a dead horse, thus further illustrating the ridiculous of the saying at all.
But ships and butterflies are majestic, and you can never have too much majesty.
Anyway, BUTTERFLIES. They then have to struggle out of their chrysalis in order to strengthen their wings. If they are deprived of the opportunity and helped to do something they, by nature, must accomplish themselves in order to live and thrive, then they are permanently crippled.
A more beautifully written allegory to that effect can be found here.
Google has eight gagillion versions of that story; sometimes its a biology teacher, sometimes a student, but in every version some kindly person dooms the butterfly because they didn’t understand the purpose of the creatures struggle (nor did they stop to consider the philosophical aspects of struggle at all) and intervened to “help,” without having enough information to know that their intent wasn’t a true representation of what was helpful. Viewing someone/something as a victim doesn’t help them: expectation of victimization leads to a smaller/significantly limited/more cramped world than what we are able to create for ourselves when we acknowledge our limitations, and utilize a crisis as a means to strengthen our selves and sharpen our resolve.
If the butterfly fails at first to extract themselves, they adapt until they’re successful. Intervening outside of what is appropriate doesn’t give them a chance to grow through this very necessary struggle.
If you haven’t identified and taken stock of the tools at your disposal, of course you aren’t capable of utilizing them, properly or at all.
If you default to help from others before assessing what is within your own power, you may cripple yourself.
The best way of helping anyone–people, animals, ourselves–is to help them to live under their own momentum, allow them to help themselves. Don’t patronize something just because you think it is weak, as your misjudged “help” is assuring that it will remain so. Help them by assessing a situation, and being truthful about the nature of their reality.
Closer relationships necessitate a higher degree of truth-telling within those relationships. Why else cultivate a community, if not to have each other’s best interest in mind and to help one another succeed to the best of their ability?
To build reason and action upon undisputed, unexamined versions of truth is unsound, unsafe, unnecessary, and unethical.
Birth and rebirth are messy. Let yourself struggle Practically a little, and with purpose, as opposed to Arbitrarily: remember, the butterfly has a goal in mind (to be reborn). They aren’t just crawling into cramped places for the sake and sport of it. They’ve undergone a huge transformation, and intervening before they’re ready, before they’ve done their own leg work, is more hurtful than you may know. You may as well just step on the poor thing yourself and get it over with, rather than inundate them with Misguided Best Intentions.
I’ll be examining threads along this theme in the coming weeks. If you have a question, a topic of preference, or any of your own thoughts which you’d like me to respond to, please leave a comment!
And Happy New Year. May the new year provide new insights, and may you be surrounded by people who truly help you to both become better versions of yourselves.