One of the first few things we learn in school is about the lifecycle of a butterfly. That it has four stages, and that each stage is different. That each stage has a different purpose, a goal. That the process is varied because it could take anything from a month to a year. But at the end of it all, at the end of all that hibernation and the overeating, the ugliness and the disappearance, what emerges is a beautiful, mythical creature that will be among flowers forevermore.
Perhaps there is another reason that we learn about the life cycle of a butterfly at such a young age. Perhaps, someone out there realised that the life cycle of a butterfly has a lot to teach us young things about the grand life cycle of a human being as well.
The stages are similar. There are periods of excess and indulgence in our early years which resemble that of a caterpillar’s greed to eat, eat, eat. There are also long periods of hibernation and transformation that we go through in our young adult years – messy periods of shedding and detaching, of drastic haircuts and long periods of silence, of loves borne and loves forgotten – quite like what happens in a chrysalis. Where the real metamorphosis, I truly believe, happens.
The word chrysalis comes from the word khrysos “gold”, owing to the sometimes golden metallic sheen that some chrysalides adopt. But maybe there is another meaning. That in the chrysalis, the basic elements of the larvae are spun, over and over, to become gold, to become, the butterfly.
Just like how we are spun, over and over, as the earth slowly rotates on its axis, as we orbit the lives of our lovers and friends and family, how eventually, we too reach the truest and best versions of ourselves.
The butterfly effect goes like this – small things can have non-linear, cataclysmic impacts on a complex system. The butterfly flaps its wings, somewhere far away in the world, there is a typhoon. The flapping of the butterfly’s wings is symbolic of a miniscule change, but it serves as a catalyst for another reaction, that then catalyses something else until boom, a typhoon.
The butterfly effect can be used to explain many things, but at the root of it, the message is simple. We think we can exercise a degree of control and predict the future of things like the weather, or the economy. But all it takes is the smallest, unplanned change to set in motion a chain of events that could result in consequences we would never even have dreamt of.
We try our best to keep the conditions around us favourable but that may be as far as our individual powers extend.
Because somewhere out there, a butterfly is flapping its wings. And somewhere out there, a typhoon is heading your way.
In episode 13 of Season One of Touch, Jake Bohm, a boy who hasn’t said a word in all his years of existence, who can see numbers and patterns and knows how all human lives are irrevocably linked to one another, using his headvoice, says:
“The point where all things were possible. The moment when a choice was made, or an action taken. The breath inhaled before a first step forward. And the most lasting chain reactions that are started by those moments and actions and choices… are always the ones that are started by love.”
Be the butterfly. Transform in a case of spun gold, become gold. Flap your wings. Follow the consequences of your actions. And always, always, love.