Earlier this week, when I was talking to CB about the sandpaper, she told me a beautiful (and tragic) story about butterflies.
After caterpillars have spent the requisite amount time wrapped up in their cocoons and are ready to emerge into the world as a lovely butterfly, it takes a tremendous amount of time, effort, strain, pain and agony for the butterfly to get out of the cocoon. After several hours of watching the butterfly struggle in his bonds, you think “I can help you out of there, little friend” and you cut a bigger hole for the butterfly to get through. Compared to another butterfly, one that went through the suffering of breaking free, he might look as beautiful, but there is one key difference. The butterfly who was cut from his cocoon and did not struggle to break free on his own, is unable to fly. He will never be able to fly. The struggle was necessary to develop enough strength in the wings and without it, he is just a shell of what he is meant to be.
I think the idea here is pretty clear. Sometimes the struggle is exactly what we need in order to unlock/earn the life we are meant to have. I sometimes envy the people who have never had to struggle, but maybe those people will also never fly. At least not in the same way. I can’t presume to know what they have endured in their lives and maybe we ALL have our own struggles to overcome to earn our strong wings, but either way there is no easy way out. You can’t just have somebody hand you a pair of scissors to free yourself from the bonds. You have to lean into the pain and work through it if you ever want to fly.
Of course I wanted to share this brilliant insight with all of you right away, but I also wanted to credit the original source, like I did with the fisherman story. I’m not even sure I found the original author, but an adaptation of the story was posted on Paulo Coelho’s blog and was attributed to a submission by Sonaira D’Avila.
The gist is the same, but it does look like CB took a few liberties with the details. To be fair, we were almost out of time, so maybe it’s just the short version. In other versions of this story, the butterfly who was cut from his cocoon has crumpled wings and a shrunken body to drag around for the rest of his life. I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know whether either of these outcomes is quite true, but either way, we understand that the struggle is what gives him the strength to do what he is meant to do. No matter how you slice it, this feels like an incredibly important lesson to remember in times of trial.