Inside the chrysalis

It’s September but I still spotted small brown butterflies as I passed through the neighbouring park for my morning walk. I think they were probably Speckled Wood butterflies.

Nature , in the form of this butterfly, was reminding me of an important life experience.

What you experience in the universe outside of you also exists in the universe within you. The universe literally flows through you. […] The universe has one intention: to create life.*
(Erwin McManus)

What a caterpillar is doing, in its self–imposed quarantine, is basically digesting itself. It is using enzymes to reduce its body to goo, turning itself into a soup of ex-caterpillar — a nearly formless sludge oozing around a couple of leftover essential organs (tracheal tubes, gut).**
(Sam Anderson)

I’m sorry if that was a little messy but, in essence, the chrysalis is an image for a place of confinement in which we can imagine new possibilities and experience transformation.

Sometimes we are flung into the chrysalis-state by something that happens to us, other times, we enter voluntarily. The caterpillar enters the chrysalis once, but we will probably need to enter many times because, unlike the butterfly, we can turn back into caterpillars.

It is a place for facing ourselves because the biggest issues we have in the world lie with ourselves:

The warrior faces their great adversary when they have to face themselves.*

I’ve just got hold of a copy of David Brooks’ The Second Mountain and came upon these words about those who have come to realise there is a more than one mountain to climb in their lifetime:

They want to want the things that truly worth wanting. They elevate their desires. The world tells them to be a good consumer, but they want to be consumed by a moral cause.^

That sounds very much like the experience within the chrysalis, the possibility of a larger life awaiting us.

It turns out that for the wannabe butterfly, the key elements in the chrysalis goo are “imaginal discs,” the elements that feed on the proteins to become the important structures of the butterfly.

In terms of what we’re thinking about for ourselves, these are our values, talents, and our energies that we notice and feed. The butterfly is our new story to live. (Everything from the old, caterpillar story is still present, but in a radically different way.)

(*From Erwin McManus’ The Way of the Warrior.)
(**Sam Anderson, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: Advice from a caterpillar.)
(^From David Brooks’ The Second Mountain.)

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