The Nautilus Shell: a Metaphor for Life
I have loved shells since I was little. When I was about seven years old, I recall stopping at a rock shop while traveling with my family in New Mexico. I was fascinated with the shells they also had for sale. With my allowance, I bought my first one. A collection began. During the next several years, a family friend traveled frequently to Florida and brought back more shells for me. My collection grew. I considered them nature's sculptures and knew the names of every single one. That specific knowledge has long since disappeared, but not my fascination with them.
A marine animal with a spiral shell, the nautilus is one of the only shells to survive from the Dinosaur era. Relatively unchanged for 450 million years, it is sometimes referred to as a "living fossil."
The nautilus creates a new chamber as it outgrows each existing one. The chambers of the nautilus shell represent expansion and renewal, symbolic of the stages we go through in life. While each new chamber is larger than the one that preceded it, the smaller chambers remain a functioning part of the whole, vital to its completeness. No part loses its significance, even as its specific usefulness has been transcended. It is the perfect symbol to remind us nothing alive is stagnant, new beginnings are vital and necessary to each stage of growth, and we all share in this universal commonality.
The successive chambers of the nautilus form a logarithmic spiral, a key element of Sacred Geometry displaying perfect mathematical proportion, following what is known as the Fibonacci sequence of numbers.The Fibonacci sequence is the series of numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and so on. The next number is found by adding up the two numbers before it.
As the shell expands, its shape begins to approximate the Phi spiral representing the Golden Mean or Golden Ratio number. This is a number without an arithmetic solution; the digits simply continue for eternity without repeating themselves.
The uniqueness of the Golden Mean is that it can be found in all living forms - our bone structure, the pattern of seeds in a sunflower, the growing tips of ferns, and as a helix, the shape of the DNA molecule. The Phi proportion of the Golden Mean underlies all biological structures. It seems to be a geometrical blueprint for life itself. Plato called this value - "The key for the universe physics".
We find the Golden Mean used widely in art, architecture and religious symbols. Artists like Da Vinci and Kandinsky used it in their paintings. The Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, forms a gentle helical spiral from the main level up to the top of the building. Interestingly, researchers found that humans will consider beautiful any art work, architecture and even a face that have the Golden Mean proportions.
Carl Jung pioneered the investigation of symbols as archetypal attributes of the collective unconscious. He recognized the universe projects itself to our unconscious minds symbolically, utilizing imagery to transmit ideas that language cannot; thus, symbols are the universal language.
A symbol of creation, movement, fluidity and evolution, the spiral has been associated with the cycles of time, the seasons, the cycle of birth, growth, death, and then rebirth. With no beginning and no end, the spiral curls eternally inward towards the Source of creation, and eternally outward with the Source's continual self-creation. Some consider the spiral a symbol of the spiritual journey, the evolutionary process of learning and growing. We seem to pass the same point over and over again but from a different perspective each time.
It was no wonder, then, that the nautilus captured my attention, on several levels, as a symbol for my business - and my life.
In response to the big question, "What is our goal in life?" the spiral's unfolding energy suggests we have no choice but to grow and move on. It encourages us to make each year of our life better, more dignified and more precious than the previous ones - bigger and better chambers, if you will.
Physician, writer, and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-96), in his poem, 'The Chambered Nautilus' used the nautilus as a metaphor for intellectual and spiritual growth and evolution. Holmes' poem implies that we outgrow our protective shells as they become no longer necessary and proposes that, in order to begin a new stage in our growth, we have to think 'outside the box'.
"One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimension." ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
When I chose this quote to use in my newsletter at its inception, I never anticipated I would be creating a new logo, much less one with such a profound symbolic connection with Holmes' poem and quotation.
The representation of the nautilus in my logo as a symbol for renewal and personal growth is tucked inside the bagua shape. The colors represent Yin and Yang, two complementary principles of Chinese philosophy. Their interaction is thought to maintain the harmony of the universe and to influence everything within it. A drop of fuchsia, my favorite color, represents universal harmony and transformation.
Because it is a "home," the nautilus shell also represents, to me, the importance of mindfulness as we create our own intentional spaces to nourish and encourage us on our personal life's journey.
Take time to come home to yourself everyday. ~ Robin Casar Jean
I would love to hear your reaction to the new logo and its design process. Please email me or visit on Facebook with your thoughts.