growth

Packing it in

I’ve been thinking about who comes and goes in our lives. What ‘sticking around’ looks and feels like. I suppose I’m exploring my own understanding of what draws me toward or away from things in life. I’m also interested in what generates movements and momentum in groups or how ideas gather support, take shape and gather energy and become dominant forces – not necessarily for any particular purpose but nevertheless have social and cultural effects. I was pondering this while riding to work and realised cycling was the perfect analogy (no surprises wheelie). So here’s a wee story/narrative, let’s go for a little spin.

I’ve never really been one for staying with the pack. Going it alone is fine and I generally prefer to ride on my own. It can at times feel a little vulnerable and lonely but I’ve found ways to feel the presence of others or to become part of the wider world while travelling or training. Riding in packs gives a sense of power and presence on the road. People in cars tend to notice a big group – even if they don’t like it – it’s hard to ignore. Being in the pack affords you space so long as you play by the rules. But you can also conserve energy and stay hidden, it’s easy and being swept along without a thought of where and why we are. But it can become a trap of comfortable unconsciousness. The question is then do I want to be here and how do I get out? Getting out of a pack depends a bit on where you are located and who is around you. Sometimes it’s as small gap, a change of pace, and a signalling to others around you. Going too quickly or with sudden moves isn’t always the best even if you desperately need out. Moving to the edges or finding a break through point becomes easier if others come with you. Once free it can be a bit of a shock as the wind hits and your awareness of how closed in it had been becomes obvious. But you can also see more, and have the ability to swerve and deviate from the line and not risk pissing someone off or taking others down.

Making a break on your own is tough, but sometimes necessary and others might chase and join. Then you could be caught but a big bunch. Riding with people that want to ride at a different pace or cover different territory could see you take different routes but meet up at a later point having arrived but having very contrasting experiences. Sometimes people drop off the back, you want them to stay with you and to keep up but they just aren’t able to. There could be a chance for them to catch up on the downhill but keeping up your own momentum is also important. Packs are not inherently bad in fact, it’s fun to join the back of one from time to time but I like to know that I am still travelling somewhere I want to go. But beware of large packs and mass movements. Just because they are moving fast doesn’t mean they are going in your preferred direction. They create lots of pull, and seem to move with purpose but they don’t necessarily care about sharing space with others. In fact some packs can blow right through other smaller ones fragmenting and disorienting those riders without stopping to look over their shoulder.

I like riding out of my comfort zone, with people willing to get a bit lost, but know how to read a map and navigate. Get off the beaten track and explore some back roads from time to time. Just so long as there is coffee somewhere along the way, otherwise I will pack a sad.

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Metamorphosis – Deleuze not Kafka

I never cease to be moved intensely by nature in all its forms. Watching a caterpillar munching a leaf hanging upside down while beside another begins to form a chrysalis I wondered if our default understandings of nature needed an overhaul, certainly the ways we incorporate ‘growth’ metaphors into the language of life. We love to talk about roots, trees, branches and leaves all leading to a linear hierarchical system of reference. Even the over worn caterpillar to butterfly invites a sense of transformation in a preferred direction, the end point being the goal or aim. The caterpillar is lacking until it becomes the butterfly – it is incomplete. Inside the chrysalis something incredible takes place and for years I imagined the caterpillar turning ‘into’ a butterfly – that somehow it ‘sprouted wings, legs etc. Well – here is the kicker, that doesn’t quite describe what happens. There is a reconstitution a breaking down, dissolving, redrawing the map of life. For a time it is no-thing – a veritable Body Without Organs on its way to becoming something we recognise and can signify with the word ‘butterfly’. It is this juicy mess inside the chrysalis that fascinates me for thinking about change, transformation and purpose. Contained inside the private world of the small green pod, colours change indicating the assembled parts are now close to the taxonomy of the familiar, the categorised. Breaking free and extending the delicate new appendages our sense of completion falls on the first flight. We look for the cycle to begin – repetitive and always coming back on itself, forever stepping over or past that no-thing unrecognisable plane of reference. But this is where I want to be, not ‘trapped’ inside a chrysalis waiting, hoping and striving to become a butterfly. Here behind the veil of the known, seen and unseen, forming and unforming. Not lacking or desiring to be anything, but allowing my form to shape with desire, for it to allow for the coalescing and connecting of matter so that I might take shape for a moment of recognition and join with other Bodies Without Organs.

Actually I wouldn’t mind a proboscis for a while, make poking tongues just a bit more interesting. Shades of Kafka? Might have to read The Metamorphosis again.