Instar - a phase between two periods of molting in the development of an insect larva or other invertebrate animal.

I learned this beautiful word from a book I'm reading called "A Field Guide To Getting Lost" by Rebecca Solnit. She talks about the shifting transformations that take place in a person's life when they undergo long term cultural change. She uses examples from early Spanish conquistadors, American pioneers and also the caterpillar.

The space between one phase or form of personal identification to another; that's what "molting" is. The place where an insect casts off or sheds feathers, skin, or the like, that will be replaced by a new growth.

Several unrelated thoughts come to mind. Because the intent of my blogs are not so much to convey a message as to invite the reader to share a glimpse of my own free and unrefined thought processes, I will follow these thoughts.

I've heard it taught that ambassadors to a country were at one time replaced after a two year period. The reasoning was that after that length of time the ambassador was susceptible to become more sentimental with the foreign countries desires than those of the country he served. So to retain loyalty and ensure the ambassadors were serving the intended interests, they were replaced. The necessity of that reveals how substantial of an influence place has on the shaping of identity.

If we spend enough time in one place or culture, the strange becomes familiar and the familiar becomes estranged. A transformation takes place. The "old longings" we find, have become "little more than habit" and a new identification emerges. The space between the former and the latter is the instar, where unseen graduations take place. I like to call this The Place Between Tick and Tock.

Rebecca Solnit talks about "the anquish of the butterfly, whose body must disintegrate and reform." She reveals that "the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay." In other places she uses words like "withdrawal" to describe part of the butterfly's transformation process."

The familiar can become tyrannical and dominate the rate of a person's growth. Sometimes transformation requires that we go away from the familiar places and patterns that afford us habitual opportunities. We need the familiar to become strange in order to get free of its grasp. In other instances, we need to be strong and hold onto the roots of who we truly are, regardless of place.

In this, I think of the Jewish people in particular and how they managed to keep a culture, a language and religious customs in tact, despite having no homeland, having no place. It is pretty ridiculously miraculous. I can only imagine the isolation and the rejection it took suffering to keep those things alive and pure. Their "place" was not a geographical location but a spiritual one.
Paul on the other hand was willing to shed his old skin and become something entirely new for the sake of fulfilling his mission. He said, I have become all things to all men. There was a deeper core to who he was that was able to grow and thrive in any environment. If he was thrust into isolation or decay, he made it his cocoon and emerged as a new creature stronger than before.