: a transformative change of heart; especially: a spiritual conversion.
Origin of METANOIA
Greek, from metanoiein to change one's mind, repent, from meta- + noein to think, from nous mind
First Known Use: 1577
Although the word “metanoia” holds the meaning of repentance, it also means an immense alteration of oneself in terms of mind, spirit, character, and morals. In this particular story, Metanoia is not just a word for spiritual transformation, but a complex design of pathways fitted into a singular, universal journey of truth. This journey passes through various mediums, providing a diverse means to understanding. Metanoia is the road that these souls are on in one form or another. It is traveled alone, and on different paths, occasionally intersecting with those our souls are familiar with. Metanoia came about from nothing, and is everything. At first this concept is difficult to grasp, but there are moments of clarity in life and spirit when the idea that nothing is something, and something can be anything, begins to makes sense.
Life Path 2: The Mediator
“There is no death. Only a change of worlds.”
When I was a little girl, I desperately wanted braids, but every time I tried to interlace my disordered hair, it came out awful. I could never get it to come out the way I needed it to. So every day I would practice the ritual of brushing it out until the strands became soft and malleable, splitting them evenly in preparation for weaving the intricate knot. The braid only came out satisfactory every once in a while. I would go through this routine with the hope that when I was older and free, and created beautiful works of art in my cottage by the sea, some charming boy would think my elegantly gathered hair was pretty, and fall in love with me. I wouldn’t have to be alone anymore.
I, little Àurea Erst of the moon Bellaphron, was simply trying to be the best Numah that I knew how to be. Despite being part of its design, biology never came to me with ease. It’s supposed to feel natural, but I couldn’t help but feel the way involuntary breathing allowed me to live without thinking, or how my body took sustenance and converted it to energy without me giving the command. Time in a body allows you to forget the peculiarity of these things, to take them for granted, to get lost in life. Which is the way that it should be, although I hardly ever experienced existence like this.
Eyes blinking, they’re large, completely taken over by an amber that glistens with threads of gold, and small oval pupils in the center. They are what allow you to see the rest of yourself. For me, it was symmetrical square pigments on my temple that gathered along their brown, curved edges. They traveled down the sides of my neck in the way it should on a woman. Pigments of a woman. Small, delicate lips of a woman. Curved torso of a woman. I have no attachment to my gender, and no feelings against it either. I assume the role indifferently, as it seems to function no better or worse than the others.
Two slender arms allowed me to carry and grab, while two legs could take me places. The most important thing that my body did for me was give me permission to create, to manipulate objects in the fashion I desired, in a way that my senses had me perceive and interpret a world of both finite, and infinite. The heart can wonder as the body drags it around.
I was told in my adolescence that this place, and everything in and around it has come about from nothing. Having to grasp this idea through thought is overwhelming for someone like me, but nonetheless, I am lead to believe that there are many hidden spectacles in this world, in this reality, that can not only be measured and examined with complex modern instruments, but also felt with the intuition of the heart. What I know is that I’m here, and that the pigments in the patterns on my temple are somehow related to the celestial bodies that our world revolves around, and within. I feel the resonance in this statement, and it shows in my art.
My younger years brought these incessant abnormalities until, paradoxically, they became the normality of my existence. Even though I was alone with this experience, I was certainly not void of the feelings that being an outsider to my peers allowed me to experience. I was alone, but not empty. I felt everything.
While I frequently had at least one person in my company at any given time, it was not natural for me to feel included. How could I? I looked at all of them, their bodies whisked by, connected by threads and colors intertwined and jutting out in several different directions. They were apart of something larger than I, larger than themselves that I could see and feel. I was witnessing a network of complexity and significance, although I could never tell what that significance was. When I saw my reflection, there was nothing special about me, no colors, no tangled threads whipping about. I was on the sidelines, watching them from afar, a mere observer unable to come in contact with their world, or to know what their lives were like, to be integrated into your own kind.
I’d sit within the homes of my caretakers and children alike. I loved every single one of them, unconditionally and without restraint, without any sensible reason. But I loved them from afar. As a child, my day-to-day experiences around everyone consisted of sitting at the commons table, typically with some sort of small odd project of my own. Rahn, one of my closer peers, thought nothing of my shyness.
“What are you working on today Àurea?” I stopped to look at him, a little startled to be engaged in conversation while absorbed in my own world.
“A basket for Aunt Sashem” I told him. The colorful rope and twine lay strewn across the table in front of me, partly together and partly disassembled. He nodded in approval.
“You’re really good at that” he would say. I appreciated his persistent kindness more than he knew, and more than I showed. Later that day I remembered that I forgot to thank him, and it dully haunted my thoughts for the next few weeks. I made sure to make up for it in days that followed, to be a good friend to him, love him just a little closer than from afar.
I used a basket like the one I made for the caretakers to collect miscellaneous findings in nature and around the village that were to my liking. I’d set out on my own on days off from schooling, basket in hand, vision in mind, typically of something much grander than the boundaries reality permitted.
Large groups of our people lived in seclusion amongst several different continents and islands, with most village residents collectively raising their youth. Because of this, I was always around many different people whom I grew close with and learned from on our secluded island called Elpis. While going about my business, I ran into these neighbors, these village residents who were my family.
It is a wonder as to why we remember some things and not others. Certain moments, even as dull and simple as they may seem in the midst of life’s daily happenings are chosen for future reference. Its almost as if the mind and heart attach to these instances as checkpoints during development for recall in later years. One particular moment in these days of wandering stands out in my memory. It was a typical day, only this time my walk was temporarily interrupted by one of the caretakers, Aunt Trenia. She had taken some days off from her craft and was attending to chores when she caught a glimpse of me walking along the path.
“Àurea!!” she had to yell across the field to catch my attention, which was always under 6 feet of thoughts and images evoked by my emotional nature.
“Come over here!” A little alarmed and nervous, yet very trusting, I obeyed. I had to sift through the thick purple vegetation that filled every empty plot of land on our island to get to her.
“Have you found anything interesting today?” she asked me when I got to her, casually peering over me to see if there was anything in my basket.
“Not yet, I just started.”
What I loved most about Aunt Trenia was the large pendant of planet Èros she wore around her neck. It hung loosely over her chest, exhibiting brilliant hues of turquoise and violet in the light of day. Èros was the most beautiful spectacle our world had to behold. I easily understood why my people were so fixated on it throughout our history, making countless pieces of jewelry and paintings out of the inspiration it evoked. More times than not, I have even caught myself in awe of its giant ringed presence in the sky, watching us. An entire different world so close, yet far out of reach. What was up there?
“I could use your help with something for a moment, if that is alright with you.”
She took me into her cottage and led me past the foyer, and through the den, where she kept a small collection of beautiful celestial items. Like her necklace, I always felt drawn to these shrines. I had a feeling that it all possessed a much deeper meaning than I could have comprehended, not until I was older at least. I wanted to have the significance of all these objects and images explained, but was too shy to ask, and afraid of being turned away from the secret. So instead, I waited, hoping to one day overhear the caretakers discussing it and gain more insight into their world. Not surprisingly though, I didn’t have much luck with this method. I thought about the possibilities for a moment as we walked, eventually reminding myself to stay focused on what Aunt Trenia wanted me to do for her.
“I started working on a little project of my own, but I don’t have the knack for these things like you do” She said as we entered one of the little rooms. On the desk, I could see the evidence of an attempt to make some kind of bracelet or necklace. A box with various compartments held many impressive beads and variations of sparkling twine. Next to it laid a piece of glittering thread with a few randomly chosen beads placed at the end, incomplete.
“I inherited this bead set from a good friend of mine who has recently passed, and started making something yesterday morning. I’m not sure why, haven’t had an artistic cell in my body my entire life. I guess I just wanted something to do. Anyway, when I saw you walking today it occurred to me that something like this should belong to you. Can I trust you to make beautiful things with it, take good care of it?”
I looked up at her eyes wide with appreciation, love and empathy. “I’m sorry for your loss Aunt Trenia. I’m not sure if I’ve done anything for you to deserve a gift like this.”
“Don’t be silly, it only makes sense for you to have it”. She quickly reorganized some of the beads, placing what she had started in the box and handed it to me. I took it as graciously as I could.
“I will do my best, thank you.”
She smiled, gently placing her hand on my back, and guided me through the entryway.
“Can you tell me what those little sculptures and ornaments mean?” I blurted out as we walked passed the shrine again before leaving the cottage. Elated with the innocent, child-like joy from the gift I was just given, I finally gained the courage to confront someone about it. “I know what they are, but I don’t know what is so special about them”.
“To be honest, I collect these items for my own personal scientific interests. Aren’t they fascinating?” I stood there for a moment thinking.
“Does everyone have these things for science?”
“Well, no. Our people also keep them for personal beliefs, spiritual ones. You’ve never heard or been told of what our people believe, have you?”
I looked at her while I thought about it, without coming up with anything I was completely sure about.
She took the pendant of Èros in her hand, lightly stroking it with her finger as if to comfort herself.
“Numah culture was heavily influenced by the presence of Èros and all the other celestial bodies in the sky during our development. From the very beginning, our people have believed that there are worlds other than our own. It only makes sense, there is already a world we stare at every day that we’ve never been to and know little about. That is the universal belief. There are variations among the villages and the cities around the world that go into detail about how we are involved, or rather how life in the cosmos is involved.”
“What are the differences?”
“That’s where the explanation reverts to spirituality.” She stopped playing with the pendant and moved her attention to some Oolong she had growing in a herb tank in her kitchen.
“Most believe that when you die, you are reincarnated and live your lives on these other worlds amongst the stars. Some believe that you remember each life you lived, and that must mean Bellaphron is the first step of the journey since there is no memory of living another life before this one. In contrast, there are those who believe that the soul can’t remember the life it previously had, and so a life on this world could be the first, or one of many already lived”.
“What do we believe?” I asked, wanting to know and understand my family as best I could despite the isolation I felt. It’s comforting to have external evidence of something greater to validate internal convictions.
“It is hard to pin down what our village believes. Perhaps that is why this is the first time you are hearing about all of this. There was a time, generations ago, when this village was more defined with their beliefs. We seem to have grown less particular. There is certainly a faith of something greater, of other worlds, It’s apparent that we aren’t alone. But the reasons for these feelings vary.” She took one of the herbs out and began to cultivate some of its needles into a jar as she took her time explaining this to me.
“For instance, I am a woman of science. When I look up at the sky, I see the wonders of how all the physical properties came to be in the particular way they’re fashioned. The combination of order and entropy, and their relationships with one another. I discover through observation. It begins with the external, what is visible, before having a feeling about it. ”
I felt as though I was able to see something clearly for the first time as I listened to her.
“For some, it doesn’t work that way.” She continued. “They look up and feel a certain way about it, allowing themselves to think they know the way life works before examining their environment. And well..” She trailed off for a moment.
“Well I suppose I don’t have the jurisdiction to decide which way is better, but the two seem to exist simultaneously as our civilization progresses”.
“What is it that you believe in then?” I asked her. She looked puzzled, maybe even a little dumbfounded by this question.
“I feel that there is no reason to believe in an afterlife. There much more to be discovered about the nature of the universe, but with science and not faith.”
“I’m having a hard time seeing the differences you are speaking of, Aunt Trenia, between faith and science” I exclaimed
“What do you mean?”
“It just seems like they’re both looking at the same thing with feelings of wonderment, while some people are enamored by faith, and others fascinated with its properties, like you said. The only difference is that it gives some faith, and others to something to look at under a microscope.”
“I suppose so, if you look at it that way.”
“Why can’t science be a spiritual pursuit then?”
“Àurea..” I could start to hear the strain in her voice. “ You mustn’t assign so much meaning and purpose to everything around you. It isn’t always like that; it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes a plant is just a plant, and a planet just a planet. While these thing are fascinating to study, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these things are divine.”
“I don’t know how to do or see anything any other way” I replied. I never understood how my shyness was so unstable, coming and going periodically without my consent. A long silence ensued before she responded.
“I guess this is why you are better at making beautiful things, and I’m better at dissecting them.”
Her words rang true, our differences identified and accepted with respect. But I always felt something strange about what she said. I couldn’t help but be caught up in the distinction she made and the relationship between the two.
Beading was an art all on its own.
Beading was an art all on its own. I was fortunate to have found it. The new activity was the stimulation I needed for my outlet. As an artist and an individual, it’s hard to keep going when you are only given the same few materials over an extended period of time. Thankfully, I was a fresh soul in a world with infinite outlets to discover. Everyone is an artist, the only thing that varies is the tool and the medium.
I admired beading so much, I decided to make it my focus for the take-home assignment in art class. Every nine days, we were expected to bring something we worked on at home. This obviously wasn’t considered homework for me, the only hard part was deciding what to bring in. The twine appeared thin and frail, but was exceptionally durable, and the beads strikingly colorful and complex. I began by carefully segregating beads that caught my attention into groups. Exhibiting cuts in several interesting angles, these beads collected into what first seemed random, but then began to take form. Inspired by Aunt Trenia’s necklace, I picked out hues of violets and blues, slowly creating what appeared to be the dainty arrangement of a bracelet. Before tying it off, I decided it looked too uniform. To fix this, I dispersed a few beads of orange and iridescent silver among the pattern to make it interesting. It seemed as though I had a subliminal understanding that slight imperfection is what makes things beautiful.
I brought this piece into class next day, placing it on the designated table as we all filed in. We didn’t get to look at each other’s items until the end of class before heading off to recess. I honestly didn’t care to see. It made me feel even more ostracized since my projects never looked anything like the others. I was the only one with the bracelet that day and even though I knew that was mostly because of the unexpected gift, I didn’t want the attention. I liked to appear to blend into the crowd. It was only my work and my internal world that set me apart.
Class went on as it did regularly, but what came afterward that particular day had changed slightly from the usual routine, and was what spurred my growth as a person in days that followed. Mentor Esme, the art teacher for our village, was the only person I can recall in my childhood whom I felt truly comfortable around. The reason why is not a mystery. So as the class left the room and scattered for the break of recess once more, I looked on in disinterest. I had my own version of recess, and it took place in an environment of my choosing where I could let my heart wander. There were days that I liked the causal company of the others, but I grew particularly tired of it, and on this day Esme could see my reluctance.
“Àurea, how would you like to help me with something in the classroom instead of leaving for recess, just for today?”
What a relief.
She brought me into the closet, effortlessly picking up a box from above our heads that was three times my size, and set it down in front of us.
“This.” She exclaimed while reaching her hand into the box and picking up a giant mess of yarn. “This is what needs to be addressed immediately.” I giggled at her seriousness.
“All of this needs to be untangled, neatly separated by color, and tied up” I nodded my head and smiled, pulling the box over in the corner where there was comfortable seating next to her desk, and slowly began to work through the disordered explosion of colors and stringy textures.
Not only did I find it therapeutic, I was surprisingly good at it. All the colors came together into what appeared as a complete mess to others, but something with its own uniform to me. Surely the colors were erratic, but with the ability to look at each one individually, it was clear to me that each strand had its own distinctiveness, and pulling the materials apart was easier than expected. Approaching the mass with calm eyes, I pulled it apart, gradually growing smaller with time and patience. This project became a part of my routine for 6 school days. Instead of going to recess I would sit there untangling the box of yarn. I didn’t mind the routine. My nervous energy liked the constant, reliable simplicity.
I finished that job and organized the yarn by color, giving it to a very pleased Mentor Esme. After that, she had another job for me, and after that, another. I officially became Mentor Esme’s miniature assistant. I felt significant, and most importantly, I had someone to talk to. Her words gave me useful perspective.
“Don’t be hindered by your own empathy” she said to me one day, tears modestly running down my face for reasons beyond my own comprehension. “There is truly an underlying strength to it, I’ve come to learn this over the years” she continued. I was cleaning her paintbrushes and organizing them by their stroke when she said this. The colors bled into the sink, combining into a repulsive brown in the drain and at the bottoms of metal cans that sat waiting to be washed.
“Your caretakers are aware and understanding of your sensitivity, its just that your particular brand is foreign to them…
But it doesn’t need to be familiar to them. Trust me, you are fine the way you are.”
I continued on with what I was doing without really outwardly responding. She knew how much I appreciated her insight even though I didn’t always have the words to express it. Hell, she knew me without the use of words at all, and perhaps that’s why we were able to be close. I began to think that maybe that was the only way someone else could understand me. She taught me many things, one of which was that copious amounts of dialogue is not always needed to see people for what they truly are.
The end of the quarter eventually came, and I would not have Mentor Esme for as my art advisor any longer. I collected my projects, leaving the bracelet on her desk with a note before leaving.
Dear Mentor Esme,
This bracelet reminds me of you, so its important that you have it. I’m beginning to think that I can do something here, and I think that’s because of you. Thank you.
Little Áurea Erst turned a new leaf after that season. Perspective allowed me to eventually become friends with people like Rahn and Aunt Trenia. We weren’t so different after all. When a seedling germinates, it rapidly makes leaps and bounds from its original state. However, it takes knowing the long journey ahead of it to be able to recognize how juvenile it truly is despite the progress. A sense of this develops as time passes, and life progresses.