butterflies turn into slime

by Harold Shinsato on December 14th, 2013
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Butterfly Art from ChileIn May at the World Open Space on Open Space 2013 in Saint Petersburg, Florida, I convened a session concerning one of the official roles in an Open Space Technology conference, the butterfly. This “role”, the butterfly, is quite loose and it is a role one can easily slip into and out of. The butterfly in an Open Space conference is not a session. Instead, a butterfly might be at the food table, or outside the facilities getting some fresh air.

The butterfly role in an Open Space conference invites a great deal of serendipity, as often someone being a “butterfly” will attract another “butterfly” into a spontaneous transformative conversation. My session in Florida was asking those hosting and organizing Open Space events what they thought about dedicating an area in facilities for a such a conference that would intentionally be attractive for butterflies and supportive of their needs, like a “butterfly garden” which contains flowers that draw these beautiful winged insects.

Some of the interesting conversations at that session involved the nature of the butterfly, and the metaphor of the butterfly as used in chaos theory, especially the “butterfly effect” used in the study of weather where sensitivity to initial conditions can mean a butterfly flapping it’s wings in Brazil could theoretically cause a tornado in Texas. But the most important of these conversations involved the path of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar digests itself into a soup which feeds the imaginal cells that gradually group and cluster to become the butterfly. Open Space is a wonderfully rich place supporting transformation, both in individuals and in organizations, and the butterfly metaphor is a very potent story.

One of the attendees, MarSea Amani, presented me this poem in Florida which she has given me permission to publish here in my blog.

butterflies turn into slime
a poem by MarSea Amani Nov 12, © 1999. All Rights Reserved.

O humans!
You think it’s so lovely
becoming a butterfly.
You’re fond of saying it.
I wonder why?!

You think it sounds pretty
to do what butterflies do
You think you’ll be pretty
if you change the way butterflies do…..

O humans!
If you but realized
what we butterflies do
to become butterflies
you wouldn’t want to!

stay pulpy worms
hugging the earth
eating all day
for all that it’s worth.

you really won’t want
to do what we do
when we melt into mush
and turn into goo.

O humans!
It’s really quite horrid,
this melting into slime.
it burns and it hurts;
it certainly isn’t sublime.

all that you were
turns into a soupy goo;
and that’s what you eat
to become the new you.

O humans!
You say you will transform
you offer self sacrifice.
wish that such pretty talk
for such change could suffice.

When caterpillars melt
you can’t hear their screams;
our voices have melted
along with our dreams.

we write in the horror
of losing ourselves,
all that we cherished
and all we once felt.

O humans!
for such transformation
you wouldn’t be wishing
if you knew what it took
for all that submissing.

stay a fat worm
eating and sleeping
dodging the birds;
no thought of leaping.

don’t wish for bright wings
to carry you high
into the light
of the limitless sky!

don’t wish to soar
in the clean air above
with no remembrance
of the things you once loved!

stay who you are!
you’re pretty enough!
don’t wish for change!
the way is too rough!

it’s hard enough
to turn worms into goo;
the fire’s even hotter
for creature’s like you.

surely you’ve noticed
that after your prayers
things really heat up
and you’re up to your ears!

surely you’ve noticed
that after you’ve prayed
to be hollowed out
you feel you’ve been slayed!

yes, it’s death you pray for
to be so transformed,
just like us caterpillars
before our new state was formed.

we die to the world
of eating up leaves
of clinging to branches
of fearing bird’s beaks.

O humans!
you say you want a better you,
but you wouldn’t, if you knew
just what was in store for you
what dying to your old self
would do to you

metamorphosis isn’t something
that you do in a day;
it takes all that melting
…day after day.

and it really does hurt.
and it takes a long time
to turn a caterpillar
into a puddle of slime

so that all he once was
is the stuff he can eat
to become his true self.
it’s no small feat!

transformation isn’t something
that you do in a day;
it takes all that melting
…day after day.

O humans! my advice to you:
stay a caterpillar!
life’s easier that way!
your job is just eating!
…day after day.


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