Walking into one of our office areas the other day, I noticed a red solo cup sitting on the desk of a member of our leadership team. In it were what appeared to be three or four green stalks with weedy-looking leaves on them. Perhaps a grandchild had picked “flowers” for grandma? Upon closer examination, I noticed some caterpillars crawling upon the stalks and then a cocoon hanging on the outside of the cup.
I learned that these were Monarch caterpillar’s getting ready to transform into their butterfly form. We use the term “metamorphosis” to describe this process and the magical sound of that word is a wonderfully apt description for the caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly transformation process.
As I watched the process in its various stages, I was struck by the parallels to our own lifelong metamorphosis. A process of growth and renewal that repeats through the many stages of our long and complex existence. Each stage marked by a transition into a higher level of being: physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and social.
Our lifetimes are marked by a process of becoming. An ongoing movement toward the next version of ourself. Our complex transformations mirroring the paths of pursuit that drive how we live and provide, grow and experience, suffer and prevail. The path is progressive and what’s next is a movement toward more – a capacity that lies beyond what we know of ourself today.
Like the caterpillar to butterfly metamorphosis, our movement from child to adult is obvious and dramatic. From our first faltering steps to full sentences and on to complex thoughts and emotions, our growth toward adulthood follows massive physical and developmental changes until we emerge fully formed. Each stage looking toward the next and our capacity for more.
But adulthood is only one arrival and our capacity for more remains. The physical progression shifts and we begin to see a new trajectory. Experience lends substance to our growth and the novel gives way to rich movements in emotion, spirit, and intellect. Our horizons expand through wonder at a broadening world and the deepening understanding we gain walking upon and within it.
Even as the physical elements of our ongoing formation shift, our capacity for more remains. Our personal powers mature and we move into the years of vocation when we provide and grow in our work. In our working lives we impact the world around us in what we do and how we do it, expanding our capabilities by pressing ourselves up against the pressures, deadlines, setbacks, challenges, and victories that sharpen our skills. These are “productive” years in what they create and provide.
And still, our capacity for more remains. Who we are becomes as much a beacon as what we do and those around us watch closely. Wisdom emerges as we survive long enough to learn what it means to endure and grow and suffer and maintain. The ebbs and flows are all part of the cycle and we’ve seen them enough to understand that we aren’t always our best but we push on, working toward better. Now knowing that there is always better – it’s inherent to our capacity for more.
Our formation is lifelong and each movement forward, even when it feels like a step back, is part of a deeper metamorphosis. We are always capable of more: effort, hope, love, action, forgiveness, knowledge, optimism, joy. Our capacity is expansive and that potential fosters an ever-present hope in what might be and in who we might become.
The caterpillar’s metamorphosis is nothing short of miraculous. The magic of nature and her tremendous capacity for the light and the dark present in all of existence reflects our own journey through life. Ours too is a miraculous transformation and we are cheating ourselves if we see it any other way. Wherever we sit in that long, broad continuum, ours still remains a capacity for more. If we chose it.