Adult development is obviously a matter of time, but could we envision it as a matter of rhythms? How to develop a rhythmical theory to describe how adults transform themselves? Those questions are located at the core of my ongoing reflections around transformative learning and rhythm theory.
Transformation as a discontinuity
Transformation is often conceived as a 'discontinuity' shaping one's life. It may for instance be triggered by a crisis, an event or an accident that brings one to reorganize the way one lives and the way ones conceives who we are and what we do. This conception is at the core of many theories in psychology and adult education, including Mezirow's (1991) transformative learning theory.
Transformation as a continuous process
Another way to conceive the emergence of a transformation in one's life suggests one to envision it through ongoing processes that are barely noticeable, either because they are unconscious or because they are so casual that they do not attract attention; what Jullien (2009) calls "silencious transformations". Thus, the transformations that characterize the development of a child may be conceived as 'continuous', as everyday little changes emerge – often unnoticed – until they eventually contribute to significant markers of one's growth (e.g., the first step made, the first word pronounced, etc.).
Transformation as a rhythmic process
Those two conceptions of transformation do not have to be opposed to each other. Conceiving them altogether requires nevertheless to develop a language that allows one to describe the relationships between continuity and discontinuity. In my opinion, this is what is at stake in the development of a rhythmic conception of change (Alhadeff-Jones, 2016, 2017).
When a butterfly comes to rescue
To illustrate this claim, I have started using the two videos below with the participants of one of my courses to raise their attention to the rhythmic aspects of one's development.
I start with this video, as it represents the stereotypical way one envisions a transformation: the emergence of the grown butterfly out of its cocoon; the ultimate discontinuity!
Then, I show the video below, which chronologically comes first, as it illustrates the production of the chrysalis itself; a phenomenon often overlooked when one refers to the 'birth' of a butterfly as an illustration of a transformation.
In both videos, what is striking is the rhythmical features of the changes that occur. Time lapse videos are particularly powerful to reveal such rhythms, as they would remain otherwise invisible to the naked eye (more on that in another post!). Both videos display specific rhythms inherent to the changes that occur in the body of the caterpillar/chrysalis/butterfly, but they are more pregnant at some stages than others.
Such phenomena, although quite complex, are obviously not as complex as the ones that affects human's life. They provides us however with powerful analogies to start grasping what is at stakes when one pays attention to the micro-changes that occur through a process of transformation. They display the everyday rhythms inherent to a transformation.
What about you?
Do you know any other examples of natural or human phenomena that display rhythmic features inherent to transformative processes in a way that can be easily perceived by human senses? Please, use the comment section below to post your suggestions. Thank you!