‘Messy’ is what we call things that are in progress, in between and as yet undefined. In reality, though, it’s in this transitional time and space that the truly magical, miraculous things happen. It’s in this time that we are busily figuring out, as the caterpillar does inside his cocoon, how to take on our most beautiful shapes.
Did you know that as the caterpillar changes into a butterfly, her body turns into a goopy, soupy mess? Butterflies aren’t simply caterpillars that have sprouted wings. While in the chrysalis, their whole structure dissolves into a liquid made up of many cells. In particular, this mixture contains a special group of cells that are called imaginal cells.
Imaginal cells are cells that have the unique ability to envision - or imagine - themselves with colorful wings, no longer in the close confinement of the cocoon, but floating freely on the air. And so they begin to organize all the other cells in the soup mixture, even the resistant ones, into a completely new formation.
So, if you were to break open the budding butterfly’s chrysalis during his time of transformation, you would probably discover something quite unrecognizable, perhaps even a bit grotesque. You would also interrupt the imaginal cells in the important work that they’re doing. This is the nature of the middle space and phase of change that the caterpillar/butterfly is in.
As a human being, and as an artist, I look at the last couple of years of pandemic life as a chrysalis time, and I have mixed feelings about emerging from it. I wonder if, turning the corner on the Spring of 2022, after two years of pandemic life, we all might share this soupy, goopy mix of feelings?
Nature has taught us that, after caterpillar, after cocoon - on the other side of a dark, quiet time of focus and inquiry, of knowing and growing into ourselves and our circumstances, and taking on our new, better, more beautiful shapes - comes the butterfly. This fragile, flighty creature is an explosion and an expression of unmatched beauty, color, joy and lightness of being. In the hard times, Nature reminds us: be patient. We too, will find our release.
It feels, though, like we’re slowly progressing out of our lives in lockdown, only to be disappointed by what we see. As we emerge out of our time of confinement, we find ourselves in a world where the freedom we had hoped to reclaim is facing a new kind of threat. We are finding a world that is asking us to come out and unite and show the best, most beautiful versions of our selves, to come together for good and stand up to evil oppressors.
Has our time in relative seclusion, estranged from each other as never before, singularly prepared us for this shared moment, to take on a new shape as a global community, as ‘social butterflies’, knowing ourselves that much better, with a newfound ability and sense of conviction, to care for one another in this time of need, and to ensure that the world awaiting us after this chrysalis time is one in which we can all live freely?
What is always needing its release in the world, on an individual, artistic and global, even a Universal, level, are our most beautiful shapes, the things we’ve worked hard, in our own time, in our own space, in our own way, to create, and to become. The energy we devote to that creative process of becoming something better, more beautiful, is always needing its release in the world.
After a global pandemic, a time of messiness and confinement, relative darkness and stillness experienced across the globe, can we look back and say we used our Covid-19 cocoon time well? Have we done that important inner work? Can we now emerge, as the butterfly does, from darkness and stillness, into colorful song, claiming full freedom of movement and lightness of being, not just for ourselves, but for each other?
Let us hope we can cross the threshold, now, from goo and messiness, into magic. Let us hope that the most beautiful, human, compassionate creatures that we imagine ourselves to be, will find their release in a world that needs them, now more than ever.