Transformation Personified

A short time ago I wrote a post on Instagram that garnered more interactions than most. Accompanied by a pretty picture, I think the reason it sparked interest was because it used the metaphor of the butterfly to think about transformation. I’ve refreshed the post here with some additional thoughts.

Caterpillars, butterflies and moths are a recurring theme on my social media posts.
They are the ultimate symbol of change and metamorphosis. The source of endless fascination for me and my son, like they are for countless others both now and through history. It’s not an accident that there is a dog eared copy of The Hungry Caterpillar in every kid’s bedroom in the country. Like most, I know the basics, the life cycle of egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly but at the age of seven, my son is asking for more detail. His curiosity is getting more specific. And I like to know things so after the barrage of questions from the little dude, I went away to read up on the biology, something I either didn’t bother to learn at school or have long since forgotten.

This was the detail that sparked something in me.  When a caterpillar spins itself into its silky cocoon, it releases enzymes which dissolve all its tissues – turns itself into a soup if you will. But within the soup, there are some chunks, some groups of cells delightfully called imaginal cells which survive the digestive process, and which form the adult body parts. They use the protein-rich ‘soup’ to fuel their cell division, forming the wings, the antenna, the legs, the eyes, Imaginal cells.  So perfectly named, so much significance in the metaphor.  Our human experience is doused in metaphor, most from the natural world, and in the middle of 2020, this seemed to speak on multiple levels.
This is a year where everything is in the soup.  We are in flux, changed or about to change.
Having had nearly six months of pause, for many people there has been a fundamental reimagining of what is important in their daily lives and what can be binned.  So many of my friends and colleagues have found a reprioritisation of family time, a refocus on their own health, a dismissal of long commutes and unnecessary busy-ness. In the chrysalis of a pandemic, they have taken the core ingredients and are rebuilding around those into something more beautiful.
And society changes when its members change. For the optimist in me can see the birthing of a shift in our collective priorities. We can see hints of the societal imaginal cells from which we can rebuild for the future.  A shift in realisation as to who we value as ‘key’ feels like one on which we build change.  Shifts in how we are thinking about health and eduction, about how our workers can function, about how we can collectively look out for each other when the chips are down.  If we can do it in this current soup, what possibilities are there for building on these as the world keeps turning.
I read these cells described beautifully as the ‘seeds of future potential’ in an article. I like that.  And in the midst of the current soup, our seeds of future potential are germinated and just need to be tended to really transform into something more beautiful than we have known before.