July 31, 2009
Inside its cramped, protective cocoon, a butterfly changes from a rotund, crawling caterpillar into a beautiful, graceful, colorful butterfly. It undergoes this metamorphosis in the dark, all alone, with no one to keep it company or calm its uneasy dreams. It sits there and changes, it lays there and sleeps, it sometimes lies within those warm protective walls and listens to sounds outside its dark enclosed walls; the wind rustling through the leaves of a tree, the barking of a dog, the calls of birds as dawn breaks. It sometimes falls into a deep sleep losing all awareness of its life; and it sometimes comes quickly awake because of a pain it feels as its body undergoes its enormous changes.
Does the butterfly know what is happening to it? It has no apparent guidance or assistance as it transforms its entire being from one thing into another. It only knows it has no choice; that whatever is happening is happening, and that it must be so. It has no sense of time as we know it, no sense of urgency, no sense of worry or fear. It just is.
Then one day it is time. It simply feels that it is time, and so it begins to eat away at its shell. It feels an overpowering need to escape the walls that have suddenly become a prison, confining it, restricting it, keeping it from being able to move its arms and legs. It wants to stretch, desperately. So it patiently, quietly, claws and chews a small hole in its shell, then makes a small tear from that hole, then a larger rent from that tear, opening up an area large enough for it to see the light outside; and when it sees the light outside it begins to push itself through that opening with all its might.
It takes so much energy, and the butterfly is very hungry and thirsty. It knows it has to free itself to find food and water. It also somehow knows that once it is free it will find those things.
After struggling and tugging and pulling itself through the hole, all of a sudden it is free. Unused to its brand new body and unstable legs it collapses into a disheveled heap and lays there next to its broken cocoon until it can gather its senses and muster its strength. It takes many long minutes, even hours, and those minutes to hours are terribly vulnerable ones. It is without defenses, and can not yet fly. Does it even know that it can fly? Does it understand that it has metamorphosed from a caterpillar into a butterfly?
It lays there on the branch, resting, breathing hard. It is all soggy and stiff. It feels a strange heavy weight on its back that compels it to stretch as vigorously and as soon as possible. Weak and wobbly, it begins to push and pull at its soggy heavy wings. It manages to slowly lift and stretch them, first the one and then the other. Gentle waves of oxygen and warm sunshine flow over its body sending shivers of scintillating joyous sensation across the thousands of microscopic feathery scales its wings are made of, rapidly drying them in the breeze and warmth. The butterfly’s body is vibrating with invisible music.
Now its legs begin to stiffen, it finds its knees and stands up. Then with all of its might it shakes out its wings and raises them high, then low, up again and down again, coming to understand what they are and how they feel and how to move them. Does it yet know what they are for?
It begins to flap those wings, each stroke drying them more, fluffing and smoothing them to perfection. Up they sweep then down they sweep, and what a surprise, what a jubilant, terrifying, moment when they scoop up a large bubble of air and lift its whole body high off the branch, and none too gracefully. It lurches this way then that, and tumbles once head over heels. It will either fully embrace its new being and take control of its new life now, or it will fall to the ground and die.
If it continues to think like a caterpillar, it will reject what it now has, and it will fall to the ground and die. But, if it thinks like a butterfly, it will fly.
In two more beats of its beautiful new wings the butterfly then easily and magnificently flies away. It will not die, it will live; and it will be here to do what it is here to be and to do. It will drink nectar from blossoms and dance on the wind, it will light down on flowers and taste their perfume. It will be a butterfly and it will love its life.
It is the most natural thing in the world for a butterfly to take to the air and be free. It is the most natural thing in the world for every living thing to be free.