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Adversity and Strength
When my children were young we lived in rural Connecticut in an area abundant in milkweed, the preferred food of Monarch caterpillars. Each summer at the end of July we would wade through a field filled with milkweed near our home searching under each leaf for the tiny eggs laid by the female on her way south. Not every plant had an egg but each plant that did for certain would have only one egg. Nature's way of ascertaining an abundance of food for the hatchling, I'm sure.
We would carefully remove these leaves from the plant and take them home to be placed into a spacious container to await the emergence of the larvae from their eggs. The wait was usually not long, a matter of a few hours or at a day or two until a tiny yellow, white and black striped caterpillar made its appearance. Immediately it would begin to feed upon the leaf to which its hatched egg was adhered.
Caterpillars have voracious appetites but when they are still so very small the leaf they feed upon will wither before it is consumed. After a few days its size and appetite catches up to the size of a milkweed leaf and it will be consumed before it withers and loses its capacity to nourish the caterpillar. At the end of the larval stage (10 to 14 days from hatching) the caterpillar will eat its way through a dozen or more leaves per day. A 24 hour eating machine. After shedding their skins for the last time they pupate themselves into unimaginably beautiful chrysalises that look like gold-trimmed pieces of light green jade.
After another 10 to 14 days the jewel-like chrysalis turns darker and then becomes perfectly transparent revealing the insect encased inside. The distinctive orange colored butterfly's wings are clearly visible folded inside its cramped cellophane-like womb. The chrysalis will begin to pulse and tremble with focused effort just before it splits and the insect pops free with damp, folded wings hanging limply much like damp towels come from the washing machine before going into the dryer. The butterfly begins to stretch and flex its wings and they slowly open and gradually dry to the shape and rigidity necessary for its first flight.
A friend of mine, who volunteers at the McGuire butterfly house on campus, told me the struggle a butterfly goes through to emerge from its cocoon or chrysalis is vital to its health and well-being. She said lepidopterists had determined fully pupated and matured butterflies whose chrysalises were cut open and assisted in the process were not as strong or healthy as those who birthed themselves unassisted. And some that emerged with assistance seemingly looked healthy but soon died. The element of struggle is a vital factor in survivability and building strength.
From time to time we all probably are challenged by a friend or relative who has gotten himself or herself into a difficult situation of their own doing and asks us for help or assistance in getting out of a tight spot. And if we are perfectly honest with ourselves we could admit to probably being in a similar situation and wishing for help at least once. It can be an awkward and distasteful position to find yourself in when this happens. Other well meaning friends and family will exert pressure on you to help in some way when you know nothing good could possibly come from it.
As all of God's creatures do, we humans also learn from experience. Or at least we should. Some of us are a bit more dense and make the same old mistakes time and time again. When I hear or read about people who have yet again foolishly gotten themselves into adverse circumstances and are hoping for assistance in extricating themselves I can't help but think of the weakened and doomed butterflies who were not allowed to struggle on their own out of their tight spot. Nietzsche, I think, said it best ... That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
The following links are to youtube videos of a Monarch Butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. I had hoped to embed the videos directly into this entry as I have many times in posts on forum threads, but for whatever reason I cannot get it to do that on a blog entry. So click the links to see short videos of Monarch Butterflies being born.
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Posted 01-10-2009 at 03:10 PM by vanders
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