The perturbing mystery of metamorphosis
“The butterfly’s attractiveness derives not only from colors and symmetry: deeper motives contribute to it. We would not think them so beautiful if they did not fly, or if they flew straight and briskly like bees, or if they stung, or above all if they did not enact the perturbing mystery of metamorphosis: the latter assumes in our eyes the value of a badly decoded message, a symbol, a sign.” — Primo Levi
Today is the birthday of a special person, who is (according to those who know her best) too shy to want her name mentioned here. She is, however, well known to love butterflies, so today’s post is a birthday tribute to her.
Primo Levi’s intriguing observation about the butterfly is likely influenced by his own survival at Auschwitz, where he may have sought many a “badly decoded message” to keep hope alive until he was able to escape a dark fate that must have seemed inevitable. On reflection, I agree with him that the butterfly’s transformative life cycle is no small part of its allure and mystique.
If nature brings us messages that transcend the scientific facts related to the wonders of our world, it is no surprise that they are “badly decoded.” Our methods of interpretation and understanding of such signs are far from perfect. Perhaps it is equally important — or maybe more so — to take simple delight in those traits of the butterflies that even a child can understand: their random but graceful movements, their intricate patterns and colors, their appreciation of, and dependence on, the flowers that complement their beauty.
Today, I send you a message that will be easy to decode: have a wonder-filled day, especially if it is your birthday!