Thursday, January 7, 2010



The story of the caterpillar can be summed up as such. From birth till an undisclosed time, the caterpillar eats. And eats and eats, everything in sight, all the time, for what? To roll himself into a cocoon, dark and moist, a time capsule of a different sort, a capsule of change. After a while, the caterpillar rips the cocoon from himself and emerges as something completely different-- a beautiful butterfly. Yes, yes, you nod. What's the point? We all know about how caterpillars turn into butterflies, how they are humble and rather ugly, creepy and crawly in the beginning but then go on to become something winged and extraordinary, the one insect that is not universally shrieked at. It's a thing of beauty, this transformation, it really is. And as we are so easily mesmerized by the beauty-filled flap of the butterfly wings, I have just one question for you. Does the caterpillar know that he is going to turn into a beautiful butterfly?

Think about it for a moment. Does the caterpillar think that it’s predetermined destiny is to simply eat until the end of time, and the things that happen afterwards, the cocoon, the evolution, is the caterpillar unaware of the transformation until he looks down at himself one day and realizes that he is no longer a measly worm-like thing? Or does the caterpillar eat and hold onto that will to survive, knowing that in the future, his life on the ground will be over soon and he will be granted wings to fly? Disregarding science and the development of insect brains, the life and changes of a caterpillar provide ample question and speculation, speculation that we can incorporate into our own lives. We are the caterpillars and our future selves our butterflies or perhaps just even larger caterpillars, as we wonder for sure whether we know what will happen then.

At the Musee Mechanique in San Francisco, there is a machine. “Steer the ship of your future!” it claimed, with dozens of future life options lit up before me. From pirate to doctor, it seemed everything was there, and I placed a quarter in. A moment later, “Nudist” flashed loudly before my eyes, my supposed destiny. I don’t know whether that’ll come true, but I do know that if that is my fate, then so be it. The caterpillar is a metaphor for us all, and we don’t know whether we’ll end up as butterflies or moths, so to speak, or whether we’ll remain forever a maggot. Caterpillars don’t know that they’re going to become butterflies and neither do we. The caterpillar strives to survive because the future is unknown, and only by clinging onto life can we even hope to see the potential beauty on the other side, in the future. All we can do is hope we find that cocoon of ours and perhaps we will blossom into something worth remembering during our short stint of life.

No comments:

Post a Comment