The most important force in the universe that you probably haven’t heard of.
“This is a new life, and I am not afraid.”
Walking along the dirt road path between my home and the temples of Kashi Ashram, the community in which I was raised, the steady rhythm of my footsteps gave rise to this sentence. All I could hear in my mind were these words, “this is a new life, and I am not afraid, this is a new life, and I am not afraid, this is a new life, and I am not afraid.” This became a prayer I breathed as if it were an oxygen mask handed to me as I was drowning in an ocean of sorrow.
This text from evolution biologist and futurist Elisabet Sahtouris merges scientific knowledge with storytelling to present a useful metaphor in helping us to understand what is happening and what is possible in our species and on our planet right now.
The Butterfly Story
As told by Elizabet Sahtouris, “A caterpillar can eat up to three hundred times its own weight in a day, devastating many plants in the process, continuing to eat until it’s so bloated that it hangs itself up and goes to sleep, its skin hardening into a chrysalis. Then, within the chrysalis, within the body of the dormant caterpillar, a new and very different kind of creature, the butterfly, starts to form. This confused biologists for a long time. How could a different genome plan exist within the caterpillar to form a different creature? They knew that metamorphosis occurs in a number of insect species, but it was not known until quite recently that nature did a lot of mixing and matching of very different genome/protein configurations in early evolutionary times. Cells with the butterfly genome were held as disclike aggregates of stem cells that biologists call 'imaginal cells', hidden away inside the caterpillar’ all its life, remaining undeveloped until the crisis of overeating, fatigue and breakdown allows them to develop, gradually replacing the caterpillar with a butterfly!
Such metamorphosis makes a good metaphor for the great changes globalisation, in the sense of world transformation, is bringing about., as Norie Huddle first used it in her beautiful book Butterfly. Our bloated old system is rapidly becoming defunct while the vision of a new and very different society, long held by many 'imaginal cell' humans who dreamt of a better world, is now emerging like a butterfly, representing our solutions to the crises of predation, overconsumption and breakdown in a new way of living lightly on Earth, and of seeing our human society not in the metaphors and models of mechanism as well-oiled social machinery, but in those of evolving, self-organizing and intelligent living organism.
If you want a butterfly world, don't step on the caterpillar, but join forces with other imaginal cells to build a better future for all!”