We visited the Butterfly House at Thomson’s Landscaping in Marietta, Ohio, this weekend. While there were a few Monarch butterflies in various stages of life — from still-wet wings to voracious flower hunters — there were far more striking caterpillars inching their way along the leaves, leaving behind them strangely denuded stems.
As I watched them cling, and eat, and eat, and inch, and dangle, and eat … they seemed so far removed from their future selves. If I hadn’t learned about the life cycle of a butterfly in science class so long ago, I would never think that one begets the other.
Maybe we’re like those caterpillars. We travel in our ruts, doing what we’ve always done, looking for what we’ve always seen, hearing what we’ve always heard. Until one day we pause in our journey and wonder what else is out there and what more we might become. Purpose takes hold, and we know — we just KNOW — that there’s something else out there for us.
Psychoanalyst Carl Jung called it individuation — the process of the self emerging from an undifferentiated unconscious. It’s then that innate elements of our personalities (our immature psyche) integrate with our life experiences and we become a more complete, well-functioning whole. It takes a lifetime, and we never become fully, totally complete. We can always evolve.
Today, I’m grateful for delightful caterpillars, as beautiful in their many-footed way as their winged selves will be in the not-too-distant future.