The Bellagio Butterfly Keeper
(updated May 15th, 2012)
I was in Las Vegas with a friend last year and saw a magnificent sight.
In the atrium of a hotel was a greenhouse filled with beautiful butterflies. Also inside the greenhouse was a butterfly keeper, working diligently at what was obviously a very precious task.
From a small white box, the keeper would gently remove a little transparent envelope. Then, with a pair of scissors, he’d carefully snip off one end of the envelope and softly shake the contents out into a small shrub on the counter. And out fell a butterfly! Sure enough, within moments, the creature would flutter back to life — out of its dormant state — ever so slowly flapping its wings until it had gathered enough strength to fly.
My friend and I watched in fascination as the butterfly keeper did this over and over again. There had to be hundreds of dormant butterflies in a single box!
At the time, I didn’t understand how this worked – but I figured if any place on earth could bring butterflies back to life in front of our very eyes, Vegas was it 🙂
Upon further reflection, the writer in me got to thinking. I likened what I’d seen to us, as people — or, rather, the beautiful and unique parts of us.
“It’s not true that ‘there is nothing new under the sun’: There has never been, and never will be, anyone who sees, thinks, or responds exactly the way you do. Whether you’re revolutionizing physics or making a quilt, you must display your differences to make a difference.”
— Martha Beck
And yet it seems that we often work so hard inside our little chrysalis to grow up — or heal from a loss, or overcome a tragedy, or achieve a dream — to become a butterfly and then someone comes along (or, as is more often the case, we do it to ourselves), squishes us into an envelope and puts that inside a box. Then back we go into a state of dormancy, waiting for someone — a butterfly keeper — to come along and free us again.
If so, then we need to be aware of who we’re spending the bulk of our time with. Are they are encouraging us to free the best part of ourselves?
“A friend is a loved one who awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilities within you.”
— John O’Donohue, Anam Cara; A Book of Celtic Wisdom
Or are they keeping us exactly as we are, where we are, doing what we’ve been doing for an awfully long time?
When I got back home from Vegas last year, I checked with a local butterfly expert and told him about the envelope butterflies. He said that regardless of when the butterflies were put into their envelopes – either before emerging from their chrysalis or immediately after – they would’ve only had about twenty-four hours max before they had to be set free. Otherwise, they’d die in that dormant state.
Here’s a powerful description of the danger of us remaining too long in a state of dormancy:
“Do you experience little real joy or excitement, merely maintaining the status quo? Commonly known as apathy, this condition is subtle, insidious and soul-destroying. Ironically, the problem with apathy is that we are not emotionally invested enough to really care about being apathetic.”
— Claire Scott, Butterfly Wisdom; Gifts from the Dying
And, whether we like it or not, time is passing.
Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the founder and CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc and the Board Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. To subscribe to Weekly Words of Wisdom, please click here.