I began reading Steering by Starlight: Find Your Right Life No Matter What! by Martha Beck tonight. I’ve had this book on my shelf for several months, but I had not read it. It caught my eye on the shelf tonight when I was walking past, and I had this strong urge to read it NOW.
The introduction of the book is filled with the imagery of the chrysalis, and the liquification that takes place during the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. In particular, the following quotes caught my eye. (All emphasis below is mine.)
“Caterpillars don’t just hunker down inside their cocoons and sprout wings. For many species, the first thing that happens inside the cocoon is a total meltdown. The caterpillar literally dissolves, so that if you cut open the chrysalis, you’d find nothing but liquid, a goop of undifferentiated cells.” (p. xix)
“As Joseph Campbell said, “You must give up the life you had planned in order have the life that is waiting for you.” The caterpillar that goes into the cocoon never makes it out alive.” (p. xix)
“This [the struggle a butterfly encounters once it’s fully formed and ready to leave its chrysalis] is a difficult, dangerous process; the butterfly is a damp, shriveled little thing, soft and vulnerable as it cuts the top off the cocoon and pulls itself into the air. Often, a butterfly will stop and pant for hours, apparently exhausted, before it continues its daring escape. However, if you “help” the butterfly by cutting open the cocoon, the creature will die. In fact, the longer it struggles to be free, the stronger it becomes and the longer it lives.” (p. xxii)