How to build a butterfly

Apr 22, 2024

Last weekend, several marathons were held in various cities across the world. Tens of thousands of brave runners endured the long slog to the finish line. I used to watch the highlights of the London Marathon on television with a cup of tea and a biscuit. As I watched the faces of the jubilant runners at the end, I would think, “Mmm – yes. I probably could run the marathon next year.” However, the reality is that unless I put in the hours of training in the months before and actually get out my running shoes, it’s unlikely.

Transforming into a marathon runner, or into anything else you can think of, is a process. It doesn’t happen instantly and usually requires us to take action of some kind.

If you were to think of something that symbolizes transformation, I’m willing to bet that you’re probably picturing a butterfly. From caterpillar to cocoon, to butterfly, these beautiful creatures have long been symbols of the process of transformation.

Things don’t just happen immediately, despite what we may think of when we hear stories of apparent “overnight success”. During the process, it might feel that everything is dissolving around us and that we’re wading in gloop. Inside the cocoon, the caterpillar metamorphosises and releases enzymes that dissolve its body. Within these enzymes are all the genetic material required to build the butterfly.

Butterflies aren’t born. Caterpillars don’t fly. But at every stage along the process, they’re doing exactly what they need to do.

Similarly, a few weeks ago I planted some courgette seeds. For a while, nothing visible above the surface happened. All the magic was taking place under the soil. And now – I have seven little fledgling courgette seedlings smiling at me as I type this. There is no sign that any courgettes will emerge from these little plants but I am confident that they will appear when they are ready.

We are all building our own butterflies. By recognising that this is a process and that we are all at various stages, maybe we can be a little easier on ourselves and others. The goo already contains everything we need to transform.