“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” – Dylan Thomas
The art of folding paper has always been one skill that I have lacked and probably for that reason, despised. Many years ago, I held a job at a retail store and I was banned from gift wrapping the customers’ presents. The patience and delicate touch required for this trivial task were lost upon me, resulting in hurriedly, asymmetrical and skewed wrappings. I was subsequently prohibited from this Sisyphean task much to my delight.
Fast forward to six months ago when I stumbled upon an article about two mathematically unique structures, created by folding paper. These are known by their jargon mouthful names- hexaflexagon and trihexaflexagon. Each of these geometric peculiarities has the properties of being a hexagon and when folded correctly, they reveal hidden faces. I began making this shape and found it to be relaxing and almost meditative. I repeated this task many times to the point that I now have more trihexaflexagons than I’ll ever need (the amount you will ever need is zero.)
Leo Tolstoy once wrote “If there are as many minds as there are men, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.” To extend this metaphor, “There are as many types of ME as there are ME patients.” I am fortunate enough not to have been affected with reduced dexterity in the hands. I can’t do vigorous movements however I am able to gently paint, draw, fold etc. I know of many ME patients who haven’t been granted this luxury. I am a great believer in making the most of what freedom you have, rather than dwelling upon what you are deprived of. This illness has robbed me of the ability to talk for any useful length of time, walk any meaningful distance and thrust upon me many other prohibitions. It has however granted me the use of my hands.
The folding process of the hexaflexagons drew flashbacks to my school days during which the class learnt of the story of Sadako Sasaki and the thousand origami cranes. She was a Japanese school girl affected by the radiation emitted from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The story continues that she was inspired by the Japanese legend which states that anyone who creates one thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by the crane. Sasaki developed leukaemia and one version of the story states that she folded 644 cranes before dying. Her classmates folded the rest of the cranes for her. Another version of the story claims that she did reach one thousand cranes but her wish failed to come true.
My school teacher after recalling this story taught us the skill of folding a paper crane and much to my dread at the time, forced each of us to make one. At school I would often work using a quid pro quo system with other students. They would make something technological or requiring hand dexterity for me and I would help them with some other work. Unfortunately, on this occasion, I was made to fold this paper crane myself. My end creation was easily the most disfigured crane in the class, perhaps having more semblances to a scrunched up piece of paper than a crane.
After recalling my childhood crane mis-creation, I moved on from trihexaflexagons to paper cranes. I started coincidently on Hiroshima day this year. I gently folded one after another and found the process almost meditative. The daily process involved me folding a few cranes a day while listening to podcasts. After realising that my ME was allowing me to continue with this task, I set a goal of one thousand cranes, a handful of cranes a day. I saw it as almost an act of defiance and even rebellion against this illness. Some days I was too sick to make any cranes and other days I would fold 6 cranes. The process of repetition gradually improved the quality of the cranes, from Picasso esque to neatly folded and near symmetrical.
For this entire period of time, I used white, fairly large paper. The larger the paper, the longer it takes and harder it is to fold a crane. After passing 280 cranes, all folded with white paper, my Mum bought me specialised smaller origami paper that had the colours of the spectrum engrained within it. The change of paper caused me to fold the cranes with renewed speed and the colours provided some mental stimulation to motivate me further. After several months folding, I finally laid the last crease on my one thousandth paper crane. The photos seen through this blog entry are all of my thousand paper cranes!
“However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”-Kubrick