In spring, butterflies emerge from the cocoons into which they went, as caterpillars, about a week before. If you were to open a cocoon midway through that week, you would find it filled with whitish mush. I do not recommend this, because it kills the butterfly-to-be. Still, I recall as a child that I did once open a cocoon. The mush inside is not a caterpillar, nor is it a butterfly, nor is it some in-between half-caterpillar-half-butterfly. There is, in fact, no recognizable portion of anything alive. It’s just unpromising goo.

You might have thought that some logical and orderly transition was going on inside that cocoon: that the caterpillar’s body was becoming sleek and segmented and wings were sprouting out of its back. But no. The caterpillar dissolves away entirely into goo. I imagine it wondering, in some dim gooey way, whether it should have remained a caterpillar.

From the undifferentiated goo, a butterfly begins to form. The transistion's logic and order, if it has any, are invisible mysteries.

Transformation requires this courage: to let what you have been melt into a sticky puddle. To get from the caterpillar that we now are to the butterfly that we may become sometimes requires a goo phase: some time spent being nothing at all except a mushy mess.

I'm not suggesting that you consider deliberately deciding to be a mushy mess for a while. This is not a matter of intentional choice. Rather, we simply find that through no power of our own the life we have known has dissolved, and we along with it have become undefined and shapeless: an indeterminate mystery of limitless possibility.

If you happen to be in a goo-ish time right now -- or if you know someone who seems to be -- just keep in mind that, even though it seems that nothing is happening, quite likely, something is cooking. Inside the chrysalis, molecules rearrange themselves, following a DNA recipe far beyond the ken of caterpillar or butterfly. Inside us, too, in times when our lives seem to be goo, imperceptible rearrangement is occurring, beyond the ken of our understanding. Out of the opaque mysterious soup, a new life is forming. Have faith.

Photo by Charlesjsharp, Wikimedia Commons

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