It was dark, and cramped, and humid. The walls were closing in and exerting pressure on the body. It felt as if the whole body was going to implode.
And then an opening, a light at the end of the tunnel appeared. The body started pushing against the walls, and miraculously they gave way. The opening enlarged and the light got brighter. And then, suddenly, as if through sorcery, the walls fell back and the body was released.
A few hours later, the beautiful Madam Butterfly was fluttering about and enjoying herself. This was the ecstasy of freedom, and the magic of beauty.
Suddenly Madam Butterfly noticed a caterpillar clinging to a branch, slowly inching its way to the next leaf. And this brought back a flood of memories. Madam Butterfly remembered the time that she was a caterpillar, and was glad for her decision to weave her cocoon, to go through the solitary period of transformation, and emerge as this agile and wonderful creature.
And then with a second glance at the caterpillar, a rush of compassion and love flooded her body. She thought, `If only this poor caterpillar knew that it could decide to transform, and become a butterfly....'
As if through divine revelation, a whole myriad of possibilities opened up to her. She then discovered her mission. To let every caterpillar know that all they need to do is to decide, and patiently go through the trials and tribulations of transformation, and they will automatically emerge as butterflies. Yes, she decided that she could spend the rest of her life doing this.
So without hesitation she approached the caterpillar and started telling him her own story. The caterpillar listened intently as if listening to a mythical tale of magic and enchantment. The story reverberated at the deepest levels of its being, yet it was too fantastic to be true. So caterpillar challenged Madam Butterfly to come and tell the same story to the entire caterpillar colony.
`Wonderful!' thought Madam Butterfly, `Nothing could have been more synchronistic!' And off they went.
At a gathering where a number of younger and elder caterpillars had formed a circle, Madam Butterfly was introduced. She went to the center of the circle and started telling them about her own story of transformation.
Everybody was delighted, yet a few of the elders became slightly apprehensive. Then they thought this was only a story and no harm was done. They thanked Madam Butterfly, and politely hinted that they were waiting for her departure. Madam Butterfly did not know how to react. `I suppose they don't understand that I am telling them that I am one of them.'
So she went directly into an arousing speech: `I am not here to tell you stories of myth and legend. I just told you my own story. I was one of you, and one day I made my decision. I found a secure spot and started weaving. I went head on into the unknown, having faith that this transformation was for the better. I weathered many challenges, and at times I was lucky too. And finally I emerged as this free and beautiful creature that you see. Each and every one of you also has the same potential. But you must make the decision. It is your choice. Stay with the known with all of its limitations, or challenge yourselves, go into the unknown and let your inner beauty emerge.'
The elders by now were visibly agitated. At first they tried to discredit and denounce Madam Butterfly. But her persistence and dedication finally won through. Then seeing Madam Butterfly as a threat to their way of being, they openly opposed her and made every effort to shield the young caterpillars from her, and to isolate her and even banish her.
But she was determined, and she knew she was on the side of the inevitable, of growth and evolution. Eventually a few of the younger caterpillars decided to try this adventure for themselves. They left the colony to find a safe and sacred space, and start weaving a cocoon around themselves.
Madam Butterfly located the few individuals who were going to undertake this transformation and warned them about the difficulties of this endeavor. That some of the cocoons will be dislodged by wind, some will be soaked by rain, others would be pecked at by birds, yet others would be eaten with the branches by the various animals of the forest. That the process was far from being smooth or certain. But the by now inspired caterpillars responded that life as a caterpillar was not certain. In fact the only certainty they had was the hardship and eventual demise. And they embarked on their journey.
Every day, more and more caterpillars would find the courage to undertake such heroic journey, and every day, the elders were getting more and more concerned. Some tried to increase their indoctrination of the old ways. Others tried to find half hearted solutions at modifying their old ways, coming up with some compromise attempts at prolonging the status quo. And all of them started attacking each other's ways.
But as Madam Butterfly had known deep in her heart, she was on the side of the inevitable.
By this time, some of the first caterpillars who embarked on this journey returned as butterflies and started talking about their ordeals. The similarity of their stories with Madam Butterfly's was striking. But what was more, some of them remembered many details from their days as caterpillars, and started sharing them with the rest of the colony.
A few weeks later, when there were still many skeptics and a few hardened caterpillars, a pair of butterflies returned with their eggs which had just hatched into larvae. They had given birth to many larvae. And they told the rest of them that this was the only way they could increase their numbers. That the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly was a part of their process of regeneration and growth. That each transformation was an individual ordeal. That their off springs were born as larvae to become caterpillars, only because they had to face their own individual ordeals and go through their own transformations.
It was only then that the entire caterpillar colony realized that this transformation was not about my way or your way, but about the natural way. That the ordeal of transformation was a part of life, and it was only by going through this ordeal that their colony could regenerate itself and flourish.
© Shahriar Shahriari
Sept 1996, Vancouver Canada
FEZANA Journal - Spring 1997 - Pg. 51
© , 1997-2005. Vancouver Canada, & Los Angeles, CA
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