Saturday, March 3, 2012
Tools for the Journey #19 - The Caterpillar and The Butterfly
"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world,
the master calls a butterfly." - Richard Bach
Over the years how many times have I been the 'caterpillar' with some looming catastrophe (or life change) seeming to suggest the end of life as I knew it? Many more times than I can count. When I was younger I believed I would be a caterpillar until the glorious day arrived when I would finally graduate to my more desired butterfly-self. With the wisdom of years I have come to understand we never truly and completely 'graduate' but rather are both caterpillar and butterfly again and again throughout the course of our lives.
My preference for my lighter-than-air, flight prone butterfly-self is undeniable. My impatience with the limited capacity of my rolly-polly caterpillar-self is distinct. However, as I have grown older - and hopefully wiser - I have tried to develop an appreciation for the time spent as a 'caterpillar'.
To the untrained eye one might think caterpillars have a pretty cushy job, just inching around the garden munching on yummy green leaves all day long...and on the surface this may be true. However, unlike people, caterpillars don't have a choice to stay caterpillars all their lives. With caterpillars metamorphosis is mandatory; transformation is non-negotiable. For the caterpillar this means at the end of the day growing into a larger, more evolved version of oneself is what must be undertaken...and this type of transformative process is usually not very comfortable.
As humans we get more of a choice about how much we will grow (past the usual things like being born, growing up, growing old, getting sick and well)...and choice is the double-edged sword we must live with. Choosing to grow, to reach out, to extend ourselves past our caterpiller-ness to reach our butterfly-ness means electing to experience the discomfort of the chrysalis in order to become all we might in this life. However, electing not to grow, choosing not to look Life right in the eyes has a different sort of price tag.
It takes courage to embrace the 'death' of our caterpillar-self...it requires a "leap and the net will appear" type of faith because you don't really know where you will end up or exactly what 'butterfly' you will become. And what happens inside a chrysalis anyway? What mysteries await us inside the cocoon? I believe new parts of ourselves are revealed to us when we bravely turn inward and begin self-reconstruction; this spiritual labor can catalyze changes in the way we perceive the world around us. If we have guts enough to go in and do the work then we are rewarded when we emerge as the butterfly with wings and also 'new eyes' to view the world around us.
Metanoia: The term derives from the Ancient Greek words μετά (metá) (meaning "beyond" or "after") and νόος (noeō) (meaning "perception" or "understanding" or "mind"). The caterpillar inches her way along with a view up through the leaves towards the sky...but her location limits her view of the bigger picture. The butterfly having transcended the 'ground' has a view from the air which gives increased perspective of the big picture. What the butterfly sees from the sky looking down is 'beyond the understanding' of the caterpillar.
At times of new beginnings we may feel uncertain just as the butterfly fresh from the chrysalis is unsure of her new wings...but the instant her wings lift her from the ground for the first time the caterpillar she was is gone forever. With flight she is afforded (even if momentarily) a view of the mosaic of her life...and of all that is possible.
When the cycle begins again, which it always does, and the butterfly goes to sleep and wakes up as a caterpillar - she awakens with those memories of flight inside of her. It is these recollections which are tools for her journey; they will help her to have the strength to once again begin the work to transform herself into the next butterfly she is to become.
"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards." - Steve Jobs
Blessings on your journey as both caterpillar and butterfly.