Are you a caterpillar or a butterfly?


I’m not a biologist, but I am fascinated with our natural world and love reading about some of the creatures we share our planet with. I came across some information about the lowly caterpillar, and the beautiful butterfly that I did not previously know, and it struck me how very similar some of their characteristics are, metaphorically speaking, to human potential.

Caterpillars have 12 tiny eyes composed of light-sensitive cells and pigments which means they can only differentiate dark from light and cannot really form a clear image. Their perspective or view of the world is very limited, myopic and narrow as they can only see what is right in front of them. As a result, they rarely move from the vicinity of the host plant they were born on despite having many pairs of legs to transport themselves with and owning a powerhouse of around 4000 muscles in their body! Does their poor eyesight and lack of clarity hold them back from exploring the many possibilities available, even though they have all the necessary characteristics to do so?

As if understanding their limitations and need for change, the lowly caterpillar voluntarily enters into what appears to be a necessary struggle, out of their comfort zone and into a cocoon of darkness to rebuild itself and transform into its true potential. This process of metamorphosis is profound and intense as it uses its existing biology to dismember its former body and recreate itself entirely into something more spectacular and much more effective than ever before. Depending on species, climate and environment, this process can take anywhere between one week to a year until it finally emerges into the world as a beautiful winged creature, ready to take its first flight. In contrast to its former self, the butterfly’s visual field is much larger and can see nearly 360 degrees. It is far better at perceiving fast moving objects as well as seeing ultraviolet and colour spectra that it had no chance of ever seeing and experiencing previously. The moment the butterfly takes flight, it suddenly sees the world from a completely different perspective, a much wider, open view with many more possibilities and opportunities.

As humans, if we are to experience the beauty and endless possibilities life can offer, we must enter into struggle or darkness, so we can break down our old ways and move from the short-sighted view of the caterpillar to the expansive, open view of the butterfly. This is not easy, as just like the former winged creature, we also must ‘undo’ what we are in order to become what we want to be. This takes courage, commitment and faith. Leaving the ignorance of unawareness behind and resistance to change, we can emerge with new found hope, compassion, and love, ready to take flight having realized our full potential.

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