When Metaphor Stares you in the Face

During my walking meditation today I noticed a butterfly flittering near the road and its movements signified distress. I looked down and noticed that it had either underdeveloped wings or wings damaged by lack of sustenance. The empathetic part of me decided to ‘rescue it’ from certain squashing if it had flitted into the river of tires.

So often we see the butterfly emerging from chrysalis metaphor. Generally we see it as ‘it starts ugly, then emerges beautiful’ which I do not invest in so much since I find caterpillars to be fascinatingly beautiful in their own way. Sometimes however we hear of the story of the butterfly that –must- struggle out of the chrysalis in order to cause the perfusion that helps ‘inflate’ its wings. The analogy is that without struggle and maybe a little suffering, a butterfly might not get the wing structure it needs to fly. Well today, I saw what could have been that butterfly.

Its wings were not right and it couldn’t really fly. I watched it struggle to fly to no avail. I picked it up and wondered if it was just dehydrated. I am not an entomologist so I don’t really know what was wrong, I just saw what I assessed as potential suffering. I thought to take it to a nearby wetland area for some water. Knowing that it might be eaten by the critters that might like a tasty insect snack, but at least it might get what it needed before it joined the proverbial circle of life. I reached out toward the mud and it crawled up my arm as if to escape rather than partake, so I thought not to leave it there.

I then just started walking and the butterfly aimed in to the wind and stretched its wings. I walked another 1/3 of a mile to a spot where I knew there were plenty of flowers and many of that same butterfly’s cohorts. I wanted to take it to a place where the flowers could at least be crawled to so it could get sustenance before some inevitable predator might get it. To give it a chance to not suffer if even for a moment.

As I walked, it kept aiming in to the wind and stretching its wings.

1/3 of a mile was enough time to consider the metaphor. I remember being in a community building intensive training and there was a woman there who had repeated the butterfly struggle metaphor over and over, she kept saying “I have the answer, but telling you would prevent your wings from spreading.” And I would think to myself “Then WTF are you doing here?!? You’ve reached some sort of Community Nirvana and you know you can’t share but you’re here why?” I get it, we all have a process that is unique, and combine the individual with others and it complicates the unique need to alleviate suffering, but why must that be a mantra for the enlightened to repeat to the suffering? All the while I don’t know if I am complicating this tiny creature’s suffering by moving it from roadside to flowers, but I can only go by my own sense of motivation on it.

Once I got to the tiny meadow of flowers, I found a patch with a fair number of flowers within reach that didn’t have a spider looking for a meal and I set the butterfly on it. It immediately sunk its proboscis in and began consuming. I waited until it was done and moved it to another flower, then another, then another and then I moved it to another patch that it might be able to traverse without my help.

Why? Why would I do this? Not for a healthy reason to be frank. Things live and suffer and die by the millions every day. I just couldn’t walk by this suffering thing and not give it a chance to at least have a last good meal before it goes. It might not follow the philosophy of letting things develop in their own way but it alleviated the part in me that was distressed by it. Even if that distress might have been forgotten in a few hours.

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