There was a man who had lost his wife. He had two daughters whom he lovingly took care by himself. He saw to give them the very best education and knowledge possible. These two girls were as intelligent as they were curious and were constantly asking questions to their father. Some times he did know the answers and some times he didn’t. On a certain day, he sent the two siblings away to stay for a time with a wise old man up in the hill. He wanted them to learn from his wisdom. The wise man would answer any question promptly and confidently with the correct answers. This had the girls a little impatient with him and one day, they decided to play a trick on him. They would create a situation in which he wouldn’t know the answer to the question.
So one of the girls appeared with a beautiful butterfly. It was indigo blue with black spots on each wing and looked really majestic. She would use it to fool the old man. What are you going to do with it?” Her sister asked. “I’m going to hide the butterfly inside my hands so he doesn’t see it. Then I’m going to ask him if the butterfly is dead or alive” She replied proudly” If he answers that it is dead, I will open wide my hands so he can appreciate it alive. If he answers that it is alive, I will put pressure onto it so it will die and then show it to him. What ever he answers, he will be wrong. So the two girls went to see him at his place were he was meditating. “I’ve got a butterfly in my hands, wise man… Tell me, is it dead or alive?” She asked. He, calmly, and with a smile in his face he just answered. “It depends on you… It’s in your hands.”
I don’t know about you, but this seems like a very good description of where we are at this time in the world, and has taken on new meaning for me because we are literally co-creating the future in our dark and complex times. If you don’t believe they are dark and complex times, then you’re obviously out to lunch. The pre-coronavirus world was bad enough with technologies laying waste to the world, the effects of nuclear warming, wildfires destroying nearly half a billion animals, the ever present threat of nuclear weapons, inflammatory world leaders adding to the confusion, and industrial growth industries scrambling for the last few dollars. Now in the midst of covid, as the death toll rises, we see the rise of conspiracy theories about plandemics and the like and frankly it looks like we have a reality crisis to add to a meaning crisis. Oh and did I mention the coming recession?
Are you still here or have you taken flight? Who could blame you. No one knows how this is going to end. We want certainty, but uncertainty is the nature of the world. And that’s actually a good thing because think about it. If we were given a pill that told us everything was going to be fine we’d all take it, right? But would that help us to unleash our greatest creativity? Absolutely not. And that’s the only way we come alive and can change things for the better.
In the context of butterflies and metamorphosis, we’re all about to enter the chrysalis. As any butterfly knows by experience, you have to stop being one thing in order to become something else. There’s no instruction manual for what happens next. And by the way, within that cocoon the caterpillar doesn’t just lose a few legs and grow wings. It has to face the dissolution of everything. It literally disintegrates at a cellular level into a slimy soup. From this point, life looks well and truly over but it’s not. It’s merely being radically rearranged. Even then, it has to fight to get out of the chrysalis.. This has the obvious reason of opening the chrysalis and for a less obvious reason that without the movement, its wings will remain tucked to its side. It’s the pushing against the sides that helps to force fluid into its lungs and inflate them. It’s an interesting point that if an emerging butterfly is unwittingly helped out of the cocoon it won’t be able to fly. The only way out is through and the butterfly is required to go through its struggles alone.
Lets all hope, in our uncertainty then, that the breakdown we are facing becomes a breakthrough, that our dissolution becomes a radical rearrangement, that this is not the end but a turning, and that whatever survives this planetary initiation process will be truer, more heart-connected, resilient and generative.