written by bhedu partner, Lorelei Harris
When we consider imagery of transformation, oftentimes a cheery, vibrant butterfly comes to mind.
This is not one of those times.
This era of global metamorphosis more fittingly corresponds with the sun-loving butterfly’s subtler cousin: the moth.
Like the butterfly, the moth evolves from egg to caterpillar, eventually re-emerging as a winged creature. In fact, so critically intertwined is this life cycle to our cultural understanding of transformation, that third grade classrooms across the country observe, chart, hatch, and celebrate the metamorphosis of the butterfly.
Anybody hatch a moth?
Nope. Not even by accident.
Both are often interpreted as symbols of rebirth and transformation, but moths are more commonly associated with a decidedly more sinister representation: destruction.
Butterflies get flowers, glittery stickers, and revered affection.
Moths get monster-status and a dedicated pesticide.
Frankly, moths get a bad rap. But there is a lot to be gleaned from their way of being.
As a caterpillar, the moth weaves a delicate silk and leaf cocoon around itself, remaining slightly vulnerable during the process of metamorphosis. Risk-taking and vulnerability are necessary elements of true, deep, lasting change.
Most moths are nocturnal. Living primarily in darkness, they are intrinsically magnetized to light. They comfortably navigate their way through the shadows, yet they are always seeking illumination.
Incredibly adaptive, moths can quickly synchronize with their changing environment by disguising themselves as other creatures or objects. Some moths can morph their physical appearance, others imitate movements or sounds of other insects to rapidly adapt. They can take on entirely new ways of being and behaving in order to survive, if not thrive.
You probably won’t find many moth wings in dress-up bins or adorning grade school binders, but moths are indeed magical. And we all could benefit from a sense of magic where we can right now.
Moth Magic: It’s All About The Process
Magic is something we perceive, feel, or experience in the process of doing or being. The one thing magic always requires of us is presence, and being fully present can feel tough when we’re neck-deep in challenging or uncomfortable times. It’s also when presence becomes most pressing, for if we’re longing for what was or panicked over what could be, we risk losing sight of the keys cut from the now—keys that unlock chains to the past and open doors to the future.
There’s magic to be found in the here and now.
The moth, who serves as a symbol of death in many cultures, teaches us presence in absence. The COVID-19 pandemic has and continues to take not only human lives, but livelihoods and lifestyles. We are all grieving the absence of people and things, comfort and clarity. The ways of being we once knew and felt a sense of predictability for are gone. In many ways, March 2020’s remote learning national mandate placed our socially accepted (and painfully outdated) education system on life support. New and old ailments fill our charts, as teams of all sorts of specialization offer conflicting treatments.
Rather than rushing to restore things in an attempt to return haphazardly to a state of “everything’s fine now,” the night-sighted moth beckons us to pause where we’re at, live in darkness for a bit, grieve, examine our losses, and give reverence to whom and what has passed. And then, with greater appreciation and deeper understanding, we can seek out lighter opportunities as we move forward.
The moth reminds us that the coexistence of opposing elements is the dualistic nature of life: dark and light, risk and reward, life and death, grief and gratitude. There is magic to be found in the metamorphic process of change and transition, if we’re willing to be present and attentive to it. And in this dimly lit process of transformation, the details of the day-to-day can be beacons of illumination.
Stop to take stock of all your losses and gains; thoroughly survey your still-changing surroundings; identify sources of light in both places and people; be still enough to more deeply feel—more empathetically understand—individual and collective experiences.
This is what it takes to fully imagine what’s possible, initiate what’s plausible, and innovatively transform the predictable.
So...who’s going to be a mighty moth this Halloween?
Resilient to the core, the moth is built to withstand the bumps of the night as means to better recognize the breaks of light. Finding ways to examine and lean into the seeming contradictions and dualities of our situations has place and purpose in our forward-moving progress.
The moth reminds us that life isn’t or; life is both. Life is moving through the darkness to get to the light.
For many of us, things seem bleak.
Our lists are longer. Our enthusiasm deflated, our eyes more tired. Those who once shouted our superhero status have grown quiet. Increasingly pressure-filled matters appear at every turn with growing urgency.
Temperatures, expectations, and demands are high, with patience and wherewithals at all-time lows.
In these dark days, it’s easy to name our challenges. Lean into that.
As restrictions ease, leadership burdens increase. You don’t have to bear this weight alone. Big changes start with small steps.
My team and I are now partnering with educational leaders to collaboratively design, develop, communicate, implement, and monitor a sustainable Transformational Vision Strategy uniquely made for your school and district.
If you're interested in learning more, let's connect. I'd love to hear about your vision for the future and how we can support you.