I believe in butterflies. The human mind can learn quite a bit from these creatures, if it opened itself up to the possibilities. Let’s begin with how they come from caterpillars. No matter how hard the details of the chemical process are drilled into students, they can never lose their sense of wonder at the transformation. There are videos on YouTube that have closely captured butterflies emerging from the chrysalis; still, this knowledge does not lessen the amazement. Butterflies show us that the present cultural antipathy between reason and emotion—between knowledge and feeling, between scientists and dancers, between the mind and the heart—cannot endure scrutiny. The magic of this metamorphosis appeals equally to every human drive.
Butterflies spark the imagination. They can fly at will—they have achieved what the line of Daedalus and Icaurs, Valmiki, Da Vinci, the Wright Brothers, and countless others have yet not. Watching a butterfly flit amorously from flower to flower makes one ask, “Where has it been today? How far can these creatures fly? Wikipedia tells me that some species annually migrate thousands of miles, over rivers and mountains and continents. In that case, these butterflies have seen more of the world than I have or ever will. That butterfly flying in front of me right now might have been at the nearby stream last week, or it might have been flying over Kentucky! One wonders if they have seen the pyramids, or the Eiffel Tower, or Stonehenge.
Butterflies also illustrate how precarious our notions of beauty are. They embody two contradictory notions of beauty and ugliness. Their wings, their most prominent feature, large and delightfully-coloured, stand for all that is grace and beauty today. Yet, another aspect of them is a cultural motif indicative of disgust, of worthlessness: they’re insects. The selective, irrationally-determined ideals of beauty crumble in the face of the humble butterfly.
So let’s all look at butterflies, and let’s all admire them.
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