In the early days of Covid when shutdown measures were put in place, social distancing and business restrictions introduced, the town and roads went quiet. People largely stayed at home as we were not allowed to congregate in public places. Fortunately , for me, surfing was still allowed. And so I went! I drove on quieted highways. Not much local traffic was about. I loved the quietening of human ‘commerce’.
When I hit the water I began to notice the butterflies. They were drifting over the ocean and the land. Then they began to flood by on the stream of the breeze. Hundreds, thousands upon thousands. Beautiful blue winged tiger butterflies. I was astonished, laughing. I felt in my heart the earth saying “Ah the humans have stopped! It’s the time of the butterflies”.
I feel the butterfly offers a fabulous metaphor for this moment of history we’re living through. The butterflies, and the incredible process of transformation they go through to become butterflies, offers us a symbol of how we can view this moment, this social pause.
Evolutionary biologist Elisabeth Sahtouris tells the story of the caterpillars journey to butterfly. In case you haven’t heard it here is a small paraphrase
The caterpillar eats up to three times its own weight a day and continues to eat until it is so bloated it hangs itself upside down and goes to sleep. Its skin then hardens into a chrysalis. Inside this chrysalis, deep in the caterpillar’s body, tiny things biologists call ‘imaginal disks’ begin to form. Not recognizing the newcomers, the caterpillar’s immune system snuffs them as they arise. But they keep coming faster and faster, then linking up with each other. Eventually the caterpillar’s immune system fails from the stress and the disks become imaginal cells that build the butterfly by feeding on the soupy meltdown of the caterpillar’s body. The imaginal cells remain undeveloped until the crisis of overeating, fatigue and breakdown allow them to develop, replacing the caterpillar with a butterfly.
I feel we are in this caterpillar moment where the planet’s immune system is failing. The economy is in recession. The summer bushfires in Australia and North America, the 3 + billion animals who died in those fires in Australia, the communities that were impacted, those towns and food growing districts affected by drought, the failure of river systems, the large scale bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, all point to the idea that we may well be in the first stage of ecological collapse. We’ve overeaten our ecosystem’s ability to sustain us.
In this moment of pause, we have an ‘imaginal’ opportunity, an opportunity to imagine a different future. The perception #we-are-all-in-this-together, that everything is connected, that the choices we make now will determine the face of the world we emerge into is resonant within us. It feels as though we’re in an evolutionary moment being called to wake up, imagine and consciously partner the future.
Where are you feeling the meltdown? Where is your sorrow? What fears do you hold? Where are the imaginal cells emerging in you, in your community? How is the future stirring in you, calling to your imagination? Calling for your co-creative genius?
Starting from October 30th/31st Wicked Elephants is offering a 3 part WEtalk series on this moment of planetary emergency. It will be a trans-Pacific conversation so we can access a more global perspective. We invite those who hold this intuition to meet one another in this meltdown moment, to meet one another in our humanness, in our fears, our sorrow, our hope. We aim to create a space for emergence, a space where the magic of the imaginal can surface. It’s not just another strategy session. It is a deep dive into the nutritive soup of our caterpillar moment. It’s a place of listening deeply to the diversity of our voices, the voice of the Earth, the voice of the future that wants to emerge and be co-created in and through us.
In these sessions we commit to “talking differently”. We’re not sharing a panel of experts. We’re sharing our humanness and the vulnerability we’re feeling. We’re touching into the longing that is alive in our hearts, the longing for ‘the more beautiful world we know is possible’. We’ll connect with our whole body-being, opening to the part of the body-brain that makes sense differently, that sources action, caterpillar-like, from knitting together the cells, the fabric of our intuitions, in the fabric of our relationships.
We’ll be running this series as a pilot. We want to test our assumptions. We want to test whether having conversations, from this embodied place, from this place of connecting at deeper levels with others, we are drawn to action. It is based on a premise that if we keep acting from the strategizing part of ourselves we’ll generate actions that are full of tension, reactivity and defensiveness where we get stuck in divides and the dominant narrative wins. We want to test if we situate ourselves within an evolutionary narrative, listening to the longing deep within our DNA for thriving, if we build action through building our relational fields, will action flow more naturally and sustainably?
Want to be part of the experiment?
WEtalk: From Emergency to Emergence – a trans-Pacific conversation. If you’re interested to be part of this conversation, please register your interest here.