You probably know the story of the chrysalis effect – how the lowly caterpillar transforms itself into the soup of possibilities out of which emerges the butterfly with its capacity to fly. But every butterfly cats a shadow, for being a butterfly comes with a price.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of butterflies? Is it of delicate airy wisps with fragile, colorful wings that soar through sunshine and shadow and feed directly on the nectar of flowers?
Well, I can’t blame you if that is your take on them. They are lovely creatures, and watching them flutter from flower to flower in a garden or lend their grace to a meadow can be peaceful to the point of transcendence; but what of the darker side of the butterfly’s life?
Oh come now, you didn’t think it was all rainbows and moonbeams did you? You didn’t think that once a caterpillar becomes a butterfly that its worries are over did you? That all the bad things in its world would automatically dissipate into the mist of ambrosia and enlightenment? If so, you may want to think again.
Yes, a butterfly has wings. Unlike its caterpillar brethren it is not earthbound. It can choose to soar above all of those things which – when it was in its caterpillar form – were insurmountable obstacles. But this ability to transcend those things that others find nearly impossible comes inexorably linked with the ability to see more of both the good and the bad, and not only to see them, but to experience them fully.
You see, with the change in its body structure comes a change in metabolism and nutritional needs, including the need for more nutrients such as salts and amino acids; nutrients that can only be found in limited amounts in flower nectars, which is why it is not uncommon to see butterflies ingesting the liquids put out by wet soil, dung and even carrion as well as blood and in some cases even the tears of some birds and mammals in order to supply themselves with the nutrients needed to continue their lives.
Let me be clear, this does not make the butterfly a killer. It can no more kill another creature than a feather duster could harm a washcloth, but in the course of its existence as a creature of the skies with a wider view of reality, it sees more than its caterpillar brethren.
Not only does it see more – it understands that in order to be what it is; in order to continue to bring love and light and understanding to all it interacts with it cannot simply dine on nectar and drift on obligatory breezes. It also has to be able to stomach the harsher realities of life. It has to be able to ingest the pain and the suffering of others in order to transform them into love and light. It has to be able to get its feelers dirty (metaphorically speaking) in order to enact any real change in the world around it.
More importantly, it has transformed itself from a self-absorbed caterpillar whose only goal is to eat enough leaves to enact its own personal change, into a butterfly; a creature that understands that it is but a part of the larger picture; one strand in the web of life that enables the existence of everything that is.
No, not everything about going through the transformational process from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly is pleasant. The caterpillar has a far simpler and less complicated life. The creature in its chrysalis state may know pain, but it does not yet have to deal with the pain of others. But once the transformation is complete, the hurt can sometimes seem unbearable. But with the price of admission into the butterfly kingdom comes the joy of knowing that when the negative becomes too much to bear, you can choose to open your wings and fly.