Nov 17 • 4M

Want To Evolve Quickly? Try Vulnerability.

Lessons from the Turtle and the Octopus

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Andrea Gibson
It's common to look around and take inventory of what sucks. This is one poet's quest to uncover what doesn't, and what shifts when we shift our attention.
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Hello Friends!

Don’t worry, I’m not fooled by my thumbs. 
I know I am not the tadpole’s final project. 
I know I am not the last species 
evolution prays to become.
 

I wrote the above lines a decade ago in a love poem for my dog, Squash. It has always shocked me when anyone suggests humans are the finish line of evolution. How on earth could we be done evolving when rain is the white noise on iPhones that people listen to when falling asleep? When the rainforest is a screensaver we think we can break and replace? When we are almost always on the verge of nuclear war?

Recently I came across a video about the Octopus titled: Why Are We the Pinnacle of Evolution and Not Them? The film was, from my perspective, a celebration of the power of vulnerability, as it begins with this sentiment, “Having a protective shell makes species evolve very slowly. For example, turtles have stayed virtually unchanged for millions of years.”  I loved learning that octopi have evolved at lightning speeds because of their vulnerability. The fact that they were shell-less, soft, and defenseless was exactly why they became one of the most evolved species on earth, overhauling their entire being to survive. 

In the video I learned the octopus has three hearts and nine brains. They can taste with their skin. They can feel light. Though they don’t have ears, they can hear impeccably. They’re also capable of making decisions quicker than any other living being on the planet. And that’s not even to mention their wisdom and emotional depth, which we humans may not yet be evolved enough to comprehend. One could spend a lifetime complimenting the octopus’s history of turning vulnerability into a powerful force for growth. 

Here’s how I think this learning relates to us:

There are a myriad of ways we are not evolving as a species because of our protective shells. Many of us are guarded, closed, shut down. But it’s impossible to learn while in a state of defensiveness. What might we grow into if we allowed ourselves to be softer, more open, more exposed, more transparent about the truth inside of us? How might we evolve if we let our guard down? If we, like the octopus, knew that what makes us ‘soft’ is what makes us strong, how would the world be different?

Lately I’ve been diving into the deep end of my own life to log the ways my vulnerability has supported my growth and made me more resilient throughout the years. Many  things that I once identified as a weakness were exactly what made me stronger long term. For example, illness absolutely increased my capacity for compassion. It also increased my capacity for joy as I stopped allowing myself to take the precious minutes of my life for granted. Likewise, losing my hair to chemo, something that very often makes me feel vulnerable, catapults me into a more authentic experience of genuine self-love. Anxiety and panic attacks forced me to educate myself about the roots of my fear. Getting to know the why of my terror allowed the fear to relax, and ultimately helped me engage the world with more love and energy. 

Love, Wanna-Be-An-Octopus-Andrea 🖤


How has your vulnerability supported your personal evolution? I’d love to hear what you have to share.

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