Imprisoned Wings

September 12, 2006

The butterfly is often used as a symbol of transformation. A lowly caterpillar becomes a lively butterfly. And this is a fine symbol of something mundane become something almost otherworldly. However, the simple understanding of this process of caterpillar to butterfly fails to take into account the most important step in that transformation: the cocoon.

The transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is not a strict upgrade; the lesser caterpillar does not suddenly become the better butterfly. Rather, the caterpillar first enters a cocoon. While a caterpillar may not be much, it is at least free to wander about, to gather food, and to bask in the sun. In its cocoon, the caterpillar has surrendered all of those liberties and sealed itself into a hermetic existence within a self-made confine. It cannot move, nor can it engage with others, nor can it enjoy the simple pleasure of exulting below the sun. No, it is inside of a prison of its own design.

It is only after a caterpillar has endured this confinement and seclusion that it becomes free from gravity itself.