Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Transitions: Guest Post by Isabella Mori

Current Mood: Fretting

Current Song: Talk by Coldplay (1 month until the concert!)

Hey folks, a special treat for you today. Fellow blogger Isabella Mori has written a post on transitions. As you know I've been thinking a lot about them. Some sound and insightful words on the matter below. Thank you Isabella :)

Transitions - to go (that's the "it" - from the latin "ire", used in the word "itinerary", for example) from here to there (from the latin "trans" - across, or between).

In the early to mid eighties, I lived a double life. Weekdays I worked as a marketing manager of a software company downtown Toronto, and on the weekends I'd trek up to the boonies near Bancroft, Ontario, where we were doing the "back to the land" thing. It felt like I was traveling between two different planets. Hard-edged, leading-edge, hard-concrete Toronto during the week, lots of people coming and going, little greenery, loud, fast-paced during the week; and on the weekends I'd be in one of the least-populated counties in the province, on our 100-acre farm, where the neighbourhood store was a five-minute drive away, and population density meant the barn was overflowing with the results of our rabbits' enthusiastic sex drive.

It was weird, to say the least. And very stressful. The best part was when I took the bus back and forth, a 4-hour ride. It gave me time to adjust quietly but more than that, it held me in a pleasant sort of suspension.

A few years ago, I went to a philosopher's cafe that left a lasting impression on me. The theme was "identity, hospitality and thresholds". As write about transitions, I'm thinking of the idea of thresholds again, and the idea of attractors in complexity theory arises, as well. This image here is of the transition of "strange attractors". lorenz strange attractors

Imagine a marble being thrown along a path, and there is an indentation (or basin, as they call it in complexity theory) to the left, and one to the right. The marble will come to rest in one or the other basin - or, if it has a lot of momentum, it will go back and forth between the two. Well, that was me, the marble that kept rolling back and forth between those two basins of Toronto and Bancroft. The bus ride was the threshold, the place in between, the mountain ridge between the two valleys.

The place in between is often a place of reflection. We usually don't give ourselves the luxury of reflection. Typically, we race from basin to basin and spend a lot of time fantasysing about the bottom of those basins, the "ultimate" spot of the strange attractor. "Oh, the wedding will be so fantastic!", "I can't wait until I get to Puerto Vallarta!" as well as "this job is so horrible" and "I can't stand living with my dad one more day." So we race from basin to basin, out of places we don't like, into places we dream about, on and on and on.

But the in-between places can be so good. For me on the bus, it was a place of daydreaming, writing poetry, doodling, meditating and thinking. It was a place where I was not beholden to anything or anyone. No boss was calling me into his office, no children were pulling on my apron strings.

I believe that when these places in between are not immediately obvious, or seem very short, we need to find ways to expand them, to linger on them. Know the idea that when you get angry, you should count to 10? It's the same concept. It's creating a space between the red rage you experience in your mind and body and reacting to it by smacking your fist in your mother-in-law's face. It's about heeding the idea to stop and think.

Linger on the threshold. Stop and smell the roses, take a moment to listen to yourself think.

Image by ethan hein