We carry within us the nature of our existence, the nuances which build our identities. We hold the essence of our most beloved places, the embraces of people dear to us, the experiences which fill us with both elation and devastation.
In these moments, the very building blocks of our lives, what type of world do we construct?
Whether one believes in a heaven- or any form of existence after this one- perhaps whatever comes next (for it is my belief something does), would transcend worldly pleasures.
Of course, I must preface the following by stating, all of this is mere speculation.
With a furthered understanding of universal purpose, enlightened, we might hold a new value system, its construction weighted against insights and emotions the human mind presently lacks the capacity to process.
A caterpillar may look to the butterfly, pondering what the butterfly’s experience might entail. The caterpillar might contemplate the feeling of flying, of soaring above the earth at a greater speed, at having wings, as a butterfly, an entirely different being. However, the caterpillar cannot fully comprehend what life on the other side of the metamorphosis entails (most notably, because it is a caterpillar, incapable of philosophy) but, analogically, because the butterfly maintains a physical state of being the caterpillar has yet to experience.
Leonardo DaVinci once said, “For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”
Certain events within our lives “turn our eyes skywards”. They leave us permanently changed, our minds unable to return to their previous confines. This can be as simple as trying a new pizza restaurant, only to realize it tops “the best pizza you’ve ever had”. Finding a new shortcut during our morning commute. Learning an new way to solve a puzzle, or play a game.
On a larger scale, this can be one’s mind opening after trip to a foreign country, observing different cultures and customs. A job loss, which leads us down a path to a more fulfilling career. A divorce, allowing us to find a greater love than we’d previously known. The unexpected death of a loved one, giving us a new perspective on the fragility of life, causing us never hang up the phone without saying ‘I love you’.
While we can communicate these experiences to others through conversation, literature, film, photographs and a number of other mediums, we cannot fully communicate the transformative experience. In essence, because I am changed, does not mean you are changed. Empathetically, perhaps, but not experientially. The butterfly can explain the feeling of flight to the caterpillar, of one day awakening from a deepened slumber with wings, but the caterpillar cannot truly understand until it has endured its own metamorphosis.
Alas, as is one of the beauties and pitfalls of humanity: empathy does not allow us to relive that which others have experienced. While we can understand, a true transformation can only be achieved by living.
So, we, as caterpillars, must embrace our own experiences. Find value in our day-to-day lives, whilst knowing there is something greater beyond.
Grasp those human experiences, and imagine we are able to construct our own ‘paradise’. To do so, we must place these speculations of the human existence on hold, concentrating on the nuances of everyday life. Living in the moment, building our own paradise from the commonplace, embracing what is now.
A few years ago, I was 20 years old and attending junior college in Santa Monica while working as a model and actor in Los Angeles. During that time, a colleague invited me to a large party at an oceanfront estate in Malibu. While I was waiting for a drink at the bar, I struck a conversation with a man about two decades my senior. I’d assumed he was another guest at the party. We discussed real-estate, business, the entertainment industry and a number of other topics, until we fell onto the subject of education, to which I’d told him I was currently studying journalism, but was “just at community college”.
What he’d said to me next, however simple and obvious, was a statement which followed me for a number of years:
“Never say ‘just’.” Do not judge where you will be in the future by where you are now. Right now, you are exactly where you need to be, to be the person who you are meant to become.”
It was not until later in the evening that my colleague introduced me to the host of the party, whom happened to be the man I had spoken to. He shook my hand, saying, “By the way, you’re attending an excellent community college. I studied there myself, about twenty years ago.”
Those seemingly insignificant words from a well-meaning stranger (or, in retrospect, “The Man Behind the Curtain” in the Land of Oz) served as a reminder to walk confidently through events which happened shortly thereafter. Borne from a brief conversation at a party.
By embracing the now, we are able to recognize that each experience is a skillfully placed building block in our own metamorphosis. (*It must be noted these ‘skillfully placed’ circumstances often bear a striking resemblance to ‘mere coincidence’. Only in retrospect do we realize how greatly the seemingly inconsequential directs our lives). Taking this into consideration, we must balance upon the threshold of being fully present and wholly pleased in the fleeting moment, while also remaining conscious of the trajectory of our decisions.
To predict where we will be in an unforeseeable future, by gazing at it through the lens of the constructed circumstances of “now” is to confine ourselves to a prison of the present, to stifle our own evolution.
Recoiling from anything which grows or challenges us is to shy away from the untapped potential within us. It isn’t within just some of us; it is within all of us.
Potential does not discriminate by gender, by race, by religion, by age, by culture, by circumstance, by socioeconomic status. Potential is a metaphorical light, which shines within each of us. It can be an ember, gently glowing, or a flame burning so bright it is blinding. Our circumstances and influences in our lives, both positive and negative, can facilitate how quickly and brightly that light grows.
Recognize the potential within you. Embrace the potential within others.
Our stories are all unique. Each of us woke up this morning in a different place on earth, viewing the world through a different lens. We woke up with different lessons, vices, struggles, different heartache. We woke up with different hopes, values, passions, goals, different gifts.
Each of us stands at a unique phase within our own metamorphosis.
See past earthly boundaries, past the socially constructed walls and stereotypes which hold us back. Learn to recognize your brother or sister in the eyes of a stranger.
If we could carry this light within us, and recognize it in others, realizing every ember has the potential to become a flame, if given the proper time, care and encouragement:
What world would we live in?
What lives would we lead?
Who would we become?
Thanks for reading,
x. Natasha Overin