Agonies For Butterflies


I wonder if it hurts?

I bet it does.

A caterpillar transforming into a butterfly is not a gentle process.  We, looking in from the outside, see only a quiescent shell.  We note the shell, a second egg as it were when the primitively formed, wormlike creature has returned to its protective casing after the due time spent increasing its energy reserves.  We see it set, unmoving, for months, maybe the entire winter, seemingly asleep.  We see the damp, fragile creature only as it emerges once more into the greater world.

But within the chrysalis, or that cocoon of spun hardened spittle, the body of the caterpillar is anything but peaceful.  Every cell must disengage from the safe harbor of neighboring cells with whom it shared physically interlocking connections.  Every unit within becomes mobile, reverts to embryonic fluidity as they seek out their new locations, form entirely new structures from previous half-defined tissue.  Virtually no cell remains unmoved.

Except, perhaps, the nervous system.  I bet the nervous system is in turmoil.  I wonder if the butterfly suffers an agony when its internal structure is ripped apart. 

I wonder if it screams.

Maybe there is a blissful sedative that keeps it calmed, keeps it sane, locked within a living cage, while it deconstructs its entire existence.  It must be done.  It cannot create the new self without complete dissolution of the old.

Perhaps insects like butterflies are merely genetic machines.  Perhaps they feel nothing of the emotions we experience, moved entirely by instinct built into their molecular recipes.  Yet, when a butterfly struggles against the impending doom of a spider web, would we not empathize with that which we perceive as its panic?  When the male dances behind his mate over the summer fields, would we not similarly experience the heady attraction of chemical scent which she paints upon the air as sheer, lustful euphoria? 

I wonder what drive, or emotion, impels the butterfly to finally force, struggle, crack open its safe housing, and emerge into the uncertainty of second life. 

I wonder what impels that caterpillar, what sense of fear, what sense of doom, what internal trauma, what dire need for change, that it should needs must construct that second egg at all.

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