Metamorphosis

I was thinking over the weekend about isolation and this time of lockdown that we find ourselves in as a result of COVID-19 and I started to reflect on the word ‘cocooned’. When we shut ourselves in and button down the hatches, during a storm, we often talk about it as a cocoon-like experience. But what happens in a cocoon is absolutely remarkable.

 

My four key words for this time are: REST, REFLECT, REIMAGINE and RESET. All of those four things happen within a cocoon, and during the process, absolute transformation or METAMORPHOSIS occurs.

 

Before the caterpillar enters the cocoon, it has consumed a great deal. It has pretty much eaten whatever it wanted to and lived however it pleased. But when it enters the cocoon, it is entirely undone. Literally, it becomes a bit like gloop! It feels to me like many people are having the feeling of being ‘undone’ during this time. And not only individuals, whole ways that we have built our world together are being called into question. This enforced REST is causing us to REFLECT and as we do so, we are beginning to see the world around us differently. We are recognising how separated we have become from the world we live in – we are learning that it is not a commodity to be consumed, but a living, breathing Planet with which we are supposed to have a truly symbiotic relationship. We are learning just how disconnected we have become from our neighbours and are beginning to discover a new interconnectedness across the fragile family of humanity. We are learning just how much time we spend serving our dysfunctional systems and are allowing ourselves to question the validity of the way we are living and indeed the story which we have bought into. We are being individually and corporately undone, just like the caterpillar in the cocoon.

 

For the caterpillar, it must feel incredibly destabilising. Everything it has become up until this point is brought into question. As it starts to unravel within the cocoon, I wonder if it feels deeply insecure, anxious, unsafe, wishing it could stop the process and go back to the familiar ways of being a caterpillar. But the journey of metamorphosis is not an easy one, but it is absolutely vital if the caterpillar is to become what it is destined to be. Inside the cocoon, the caterpillar is broken down into ‘IMAGINAL CELLS’ – these begin to form the caterpillar into something altogether different. The caterpillar can no longer remain as it was, it is being REIMAGINED into something far more beautiful in which it can become a true gift to the world – in beauty, in pollination, in the very story that it tells of transformation and redemption.

 

And so, everything is changing within the cocoon. I wonder what is being reimagined in us, in me, in you, in our shared experience. What are we becoming? Can we really go back to such destruction of the earth we live in – such disconnectedness from the world and the people we live with? Can we really continue to fight one another, hate each other or build walls between us? Are we going to continue to allow our children to be fodder for the machine? Will we ongoingly live with such injustice, caused by our hoarding, rooted in our insecurity? Will our approach to healthcare continue to be so reactionary? Will our politics remain so removed and unrelational? Does our economics have to be so destructive to the planet and so unjust for humanity? Surely, we ourselves are potentially being formed into something altogether more beautiful. We cannot crawl back out of our cocoons as caterpillars wanting to eat ever more leaves. We have an opportunity to leave that all behind, to RESET together and refuse to go back to our old ways. That means things cannot remain the same! Everything must change! Our old ways and means simply won’t cut it any more.

 

If there were any of the old biblical prophets around these days, they would be using another R word. They would be standing on the social media corners, shouting REPENT, REPENT! Repentance. It literally means to utterly change ones mind, or turn around completely, to change your mind about walking one way and walk in another way. In Ancient Greek, the language of the New Testament writings, the word repent is METANOIA. It has a similar root to it as the word for transformation, METAMORPHOO, from which we get our word Metamorphosis – the same process as happens in the cocoon. If we are to be transformed, then we have to be willing to go through the process of repentance, to stop thinking and acting in the ways of the past and to embrace the newness of the future that is coming towards us. God, who is LOVE (and who is not interested in the building of big things which look impressive, but in the renewal of all things), promises to walk with us, to uphold us and to be part of the journey of transformation with us. We are not alone in this. The planet is literally groaning for it, our hearts are longing for it and the Spirit of God is calling for it……Does it feel scary? Yes! Is this time full of pressure and insecurity? Absolutely! But when you stop and consider what we are learning, don’t we owe it to future generations and the planet to be transformed by the renewing of our minds? Currently we are in the cocoon, and we’re being undone. But a day is coming when we will spread our wings again for an altogether reimagined future. Let us hope and take action to ensure that it is one full of love, kindness, wellbeing, compassion, and peace! In the rest and reflection, let us take time to reimagine and get ready to reset!

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How Does Change Happen? – Part 3

In the last two blog posts on this subject, I’ve looked at the work of John Paul Lederach and Valerie Fournier in thinking about how change occurs in society. I’m returning to Lederach in this blog, to think about the next phase in social change – something, he calls “anchor points”.

 

Anchor points are people, places or communities to whom change has happened and who are on with the journey of starting alternative moral economies/experiments. They become anchors when they are rooted in a geography or set of relationships, which gives them a sense of longevity and consistency. Once infected with the virus that things cannot remain as they are, an anchor becomes a place where people dig deep, willing to make mistakes, to try new things, to fail early, to learn and to try again. This mixture of humility, bravery and innovation is vital if change is really going to begin to embed.

 

It begins to become really exciting, when anchor points connect. When a few people or communities within a given geography or inspired by the same hopes begin to connect, then the anchoring becomes even stronger. The space between the anchors, which some call transitional space or liminal space, becomes the place for strengthening and encouragement, but also the substantial reality in which the change begins to take place. My friend, Michael Schiffman sees it this way: “It’s like the emergent social change is of a particular colour. The hope of the social movement is not to take over the current institutions and try and lead them differently. Rather, the colour of the movement begins to flow into everything around it – communities, institutions, all facets of society. As it does, it begins to transform those spheres by infusing and diffusing its colour into and through them.” The change begins to happen almost unconsciously – and this is where one of two things can begin to occur: transformation or resistance.

Hitting against resistance is tiring and can feel intimidating. This is why anchor points need each other so much. They must hold each other, have each other’s backs, speak well of one another, believe the best and hold onto hope. They must continue to do their own inner work and stay true to the values which they hold. AND importantly (as Hilary Cottam taught me), they must learn what they are saying no to, as much as what they are saying yes to. As they do this, they will find fresh opportunities to bring change. My friend Roger MItchell talks about this around the concept of ‘Kenarchy’, which literally means the emptying out of power, or self-giving, others-empowering love. In his work, ‘church, gospel and empire’, he looks at love as an antidote to power. Social change, he argues, happens through a three-fold pattern of subversion, submission and substantiation. In other words, social change happens, as per Fournier, through outrage and challenging the inevitability of current social norms (subversion); creating moral alternative economies – but situated in the current realities – not somewhere or somehow separately (submission); and then making those things real in that context and thereby giving them grit/substance in every day life – anchoring them in communities (substantiation).

Once a social movement becomes substantiated it really begins to effect wider change. It has found enough momentum to begin to saturate it’s context with a new possibility that is no longer a dream on the horizon but a truly alternative way of being in the here and now. At this point it will either be resisted more forcefully, in which case, it has to become even more resilient and anchored, or it will begin to change and effect every level of society, including the very important arena of policy and governance. The biggest danger to the movement at this point is that it becomes subsumed, commodified and severely compromised by those powers who do not really want it  bring about radical change and therefore alter it enough to still look a bit like radical change, but in actual fact simply ensure it serves the status quo, but in another guise! Resist and keep on loving!

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How Does Change Happen? Part 2

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How Does Change Happen?

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Inconsistent and Incongruent Messages

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What Next for General Practice?

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Engage Well

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Wake Up to Our Health Crisis

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Solutions Focused Thinking in Population Health

Tweet My last blog focused on how we can think about solutions instead of problems in the NHS. Well the same is true in thinking about the health of our whole population. Yes there are some problems! We have growing health concerns with obesity and diabetes. We have huge health inequalities. There are major issues [Continue Reading …]

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