On the Uncertainty of a Caterpillar

Passionate people don’t have popular opinions.  Everybody sounds crazy when they believe in something.  You don’t have to agree with me, but I believe in butterflies and I’m sticking to my guns about it.  Listen, just because you’ve never sprouted wings doesn’t make it impossible.  When we were kids, the soaring, majestic butterflies were all we ever dreamed of becoming and now you are convinced that was just a fairy tale, designed to make gullible children believe in something better than the truth.  If you just listen, butterflies make sense, or at the very least they aren’t as unrealistic as you make them out to be.  Sure, they seem a little fantastical, but it’s not like we have anything else to explain our lives and I figure this idea is as good as any.

As caterpillars, we spend our whole lives roaming aimlessly and eating.  We know that one day, one day very soon for you and me, we will weave a husk around ourselves and be completely unresponsive for days.  Then, one morning all our friends will come in a somber procession to check on us and find the cocoon broken open and empty.  After that, who knows what happens?  Look, I know it’s scary.  One day you are a perfectly healthy caterpillar, the next you go insane and craft what seems to be a coffin for yourself to settle into and wait for some gruesome murder.  We might as well be preparing for the slaughter from the day we hatch and set forth into the world.  The cocoon is nothing more than a weapon to kill us off with our own dignity instead of being gobbled up by an enormous beast.  That answer might satisfy you, but it doesn’t work for me.  What is the point if all we are here to do is get fat and then die?

No one has ever told us anything that makes sense about what’s happening to us.  The butterfly theory at least gives me something to work with, something to care about, even something to hope for.  You know the stories they tell about butterflies.  If that is true, then when we go into the cocoon, we change somehow, unfurling a pair of wings that has been lying already made in our bodies since we were born.  We become dainty, delicate creatures beloved by all.  Do you know what they say butterflies do?  They create life.  They spend all their time drinking nectar from blossoms and sharing their pollen to grow other flowers.  I even heard once that the reason some of our food can grow at all is because the butterflies bless it.  All we do right now is consume things.  We eat and we sleep and we get up to gorge ourselves all over again. Aren’t you tired of that endlessness?  How exhausting it is to have no dreams or goals.  If this is our purpose, we are nothing more than parasites, disintegrating nature around us.  There is nothing wrong with wanting more out of life.

No, scratch that.  I don’t want more from life, I want to have a reason to be here.  I want to give more to life.  All I have done since I hatched is let the garden feed me.  What does that accomplish?  If the cocoon is the end of us, why do we bother to be here in the first place?  It’s not like we can put it off.  When it’s our time to wrap ourselves up, we can’t say “Oh sorry, I’d rather not let nature take me away permanently and that’s that.”  But if we come out of the cocoon with wings and the ability to scatter life, this whole mindless existence has been preparation.  I can handle preparation.  What I can’t handle is how you can live without any inkling of a purpose.  It doesn’t make sense.  Don’t use the excuse of being just a caterpillar, because if worms can be useful by digging through the dirt then we should be too.

Besides, I have seen butterflies.  We both know butterflies exist.  You told me you saw that one in the garden yesterday.  And I know it was just a glimpse that time, but I saw another one sitting still once.  They are just as beautiful as everyone says.  Awe inspiring.  They have these unreasonably spindly little bodies and wings so thin that they almost disappear when they turn sideways.  They almost don’t look real.  I mean, how can something so fragile do so many things?  You would think trying to fly would be impossible when you are so flimsy, but they manage it.  And they look graceful doing it.  And the patterns.  They are covered in beautiful colors and patterns.  I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.  Their wings are more delicate and detailed than any of the flowers in the garden, and that includes the hydrangeas.  I’m not trying to be vain, but what if we look like that someday?  If we become butterflies, we’ll have beautiful wings and fairy-tale antennae too.  If they are right, we have them already I suppose, just hidden.

You always say that if butterflies were real they would communicate with us every once in a while.  Maybe they want to but they can’t.  Maybe their wings carry them so far that they can’t find their way back to tell us.  Perhaps having a different mouth and throat means they can’t speak in a way that would let us understand them and it is too hard for them to see us and not be able to communicate.  It might be that they are so busy saving the world that they never get the time to come back.  It could be any number of reasons that they don’t come back.  I don’t want to live in a state of vaguely apathetic fear my whole life.  I certainly don’t want to face the cocoon like that.

But if butterflies are real, don’t say anything yet, hear me out.  If butterflies are real, we should be looking forward to it.  The cocoon, I mean.  It would mean that all this monotonous wandering leads to something, something with a purpose.  Flying high above the garden with the wind in our wings as we spread life and color.  We would get to do something that matters, if nothing else you can’t say that’s not thrilling.  Imagine what it looks like from up there.  A kaleidoscope of colors and nectar.  Nature’s nobility, showering our subjects with grace.  We’d have it all in our grasp.  And maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe this is all there is and my incessant determination is just a way of pushing the fear away and looking brave.  But so what if it is?  It won’t make any difference to be if I’m wrong.  The only thing that changes is that I go to the cocoon with hope, which is a far sight better than where you are standing right now.  You see, no one knows what happens in the cocoon so who’s to say we won’t be butterflies.  Right?

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