September 10, 2016

Between the Folds: A lesson in Life (& Growth) from Origami.

Author's own: Shrutika Mathur

I was never an exceptional artist but weighed down by constant disappointments I looked for an outlet. I wanted to engage in and do something constructive.

Tired of feeling helpless, I stumbled upon paper folding. Since then, origami has became a means of catharsis for me.

This seemingly childish pastime has opened my mind to simple, inalienable truths: that failures and disappointments can be folded away if I learn from them and grow. That it is important to face obstacles to understand oneself.

Think about it, what do we usually do when things don’t go our way? We fold. We give in for that moment, for that particular deal, like in a game of cards. But is folding always a sign of weakness? There is bittersweet comfort in that moment, because one knows there are going to be more deals. That’s why I fold paper as a hobby. All I need is a piece of paper—no glue, no scissor and absolutely no strings attached. The beauty of a new beginning, the possibilities are infinite.

Through the valleys and mountains of the folds, all that matters is the puzzle of folding. Engrossed in the process, the mind breathes like freshly spaded garden and the soul ironically unfolds. All the bets are off. Nothing seems like a waste. It’s a form of meditation. It’s therapeutic and powerful, the attempt to create something with one’s bare hands.

There is something reassuring about pressing the paper with one’s fingers. It is not a task, this crafting. Like removing the pistachio shells away to eat the pistachios—nobody really minds the process of getting there. The same piece of paper can become a fish, a dog a flower or a bird. It can be whatever the doer wants it to be. And when it doesn’t fold your way, you straighten it out and start again!

A lot is made out of unfolding, probably in anticipation of new events, and people somehow undermine folding. Maybe we want to escape our constraints in the present in the newness that the future promises. A squirt of citrusy lightness that cuts through the mundane denseness is needed. Before we bake we fold the whipped eggs with the baking mix so that they homogenise, rest and rise. And then we fold our hands in hope and pray for the fresh waft of warm, fluffy-light baked goodies.

There is growth in folding—new dimensions are added within the same material. What’s flat and constrained extends and grows. This kind of folding does not underline resignation, but change and growth under the heat.

The setting sun permeates melancholy. This solemn, melting blob of orange bids farewell as darkness folds over it. But what lies in the folds is the assurance of another dawn. It is delicate, this moment, when the assurances are exchanged. Like two lovers making-up after a fight folded in an embrace.

Origami is done with paper, and yes it’s not permanent—but then again, what is? In House of Cards, a popular American series which has dollops of narratives smattered around art, a poor, homeless guy folds a 20 dollar bill into an origami crane and hands it back to Claire (a central character) who, out of pity, had given it to him to eat food. This scene plays out the dichotomy in what is perceived as power. The rich feel secure in perceiving and placing power in money which is paper and not permanent, whereas the poor, homeless guy folds the flat currency into a crane placing power in creation.

We fold the corner of the page while taking a break from the reading a storybook, pausing the narration within the fold—the read folding over the unread; the tangible folded over the intangible. What lies between the folds is the promise of a good tale ahead and the satisfaction of what was read and left behind. Etched are the memories and the experiences of multiple stories tucked snugly in within the folds of aged skin. The distilled wisdom in the wrinkles enfold grace and rich dignity of the lives lived.

At times we are so restrained in our boxed lives that we can’t see anything beyond the walls we are pushed against. One can either languish or look the limiter in eye and fold-out—out of the box. In Christopher Nolan’s movie, Interstellar, the explorers use a wormhole placed near the orbit of Saturn to travel to another planetary system. They explained this in the movie by bending space, shown as folding a piece of paper, so that two distinct points come together, and people can travel huge distances instantly. While it may or may not possible as scientists will continue the debate, but the possibility and the idea is riveting. And that’s what is important—imagination. Once we see beyond and other dimension we feel free from the shackles of the “real” life.

It is widely accepted that the more the folds in the brain the more intelligent the person as there is more surface and subsequently more neurons within the same space packed within the folds. Folding yields power; even the bird in the sky folds its wings first before spreading itself out and soaring high.

What is folded between our palm creases and how things unfold in our lives is uncontrollable. But between the folds of life we can control the change and growth in us.


Author: Shrutika Mathur

Image: Author’s own

Editor: Katarina Tavčar


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