Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Butterfly's Dream

Upon a time I had a dream I was a human philosopher. As with many dreams I don’t remember exactly when it began.

I awoke and immediately noticed the change. To begin with I had no wings and only four legs! I did not arise from a leaf, but rather a soft collection of something that had been made from plants and the cocoons my cousins the silk-worms make for their metamorphoses. Two of my legs I could stretch out before me and they seemed to each have five tiny legs at their end. I could not fly, but found my bottom legs were long and helped me walk, much as I would upon a flower.

My beautiful colors were gone and I had a uniform covering of brown soft skin. Long black hairs grew out of my head. And while humans are markedly inferior in beauty to the way we are blessed, some go forth and put markings upon themselves. My human body had three such markings on my right upper leg. It was a disturbing collection for they looked like our dire enemies, the swallows.

My vision was different, for everything seemed one large smear, but strangely, I could sense how far things were. The colors of this human world were not as vibrant. I don’t think I could see all the colors I could as a butterfly.

My sense of smell seemed to have disappeared, as though I was left with only memories of the rich world I had once known. I could not feel the world around me as I once could, and I pitied humans.

But then I noticed something else, a sort of feeling, but one that arranged itself in spiritual textures.

“What has happened?” I thought, but I found myself making these strange vibrations from my throat!

I explored my world and found that hunger was much the same. I found a table overlooking a beautiful lake. In the distance was a vast shape that I could only imagine was some immovable god, its head covered in white.

All I had to drink was a fragrant liquid that smelled of camellia leaves. Stranger still, I could consume the kernels of the seeds that grow upon the grasses the humans so carefully tend in artificial ponds.

Satisfied, I looked down and found a strange thing. It was made of leaves, bleached white and full of what looked like black scratches that almost looked like ants. By some power, I realized these leaves had once been trees.

And yet, I looked upon the scratches and found they said something in the strange vibrations humans use. I found that I could understand these scratches—they told a story. Now it may seem strange but in my life as a human, I discovered that my mind was made up of one thing representing something else. I suspect this is how the human scratches and vibration system worked, carrying information much the same way smell does for us. Yet nothing seemed to be what it is, but referred to something else.

Where this object was “open,” I found a trail of thoughts that described a human, a male with a purple stain on his face sitting at the bottom of a shaft lined with stones. Ordinarily, humans get water from these holes in the earth, but this one did not have any water. He seemed to be content thinking, but was really waiting to enter another world—a dark world that held the deepest truths of his soul. This trail of thoughts continued, even after I looked up at the sky. I began questioning who I was: how I had been thrown here and how I knew anything. The system of symbols that I used in my mind seemed to offer both hope and utter confusion.

Before the dream faded, I had decided to make the best of being human. There were many things I missed, but I was much too big to be afraid of birds, so that was an advantage.

I do not know if I shall dream of being a human again. But of course the dream left me wondering if I really am a butterfly dreaming of being a human, or a human dreaming I am a butterfly.

Note, if you are curious, you can read the human version of this essay here. Butterflies are a bit more loquacious, it seems.


  1. The pajama bottoms were a lot of work.

  2. While I have been known to enjoy a private summer morning "attired" this way, I suspect the real reason I'm topless is because David is lazy and didn't want to have to draw in the pajama top.