I currently live on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts (pictured below), where my girlfriend is attending vet school. I’ve been here since May 2010, and it has been a pretty difficult transition. While they do have an active tourism industry on the island and many picturesque tropical beaches, there is very little “Americanization” here. I’m glad to have a genuine experience living outside the country where I was born, but it still takes a lot of…perseverance.
The island doesn’t have a lot of “entertainment,” as we call it in the U.S., but it does have caterpillars. At least, I think they’re caterpillars. They’re not like caterpillars back at home in Michigan, precisely because these ones never change into butterflies. Instead, they just curl up and die on the sidewalk. And to be honest, it makes me sad.
It also makes me wonder how North American caterpillars evolved the way they did, with two unique phases of life separated by a metamorphosis. Actually, that’s my favorite thing about the traditional caterpillars—that they become a totally different living creature. They undergo a mysterious transformation, purely physical in their case, but with a symbolic meaning to us human beings.
We often consider change an inconvenience, even when we have a gut feeling that it’s a necessary part of life. Yet there’s a growing awareness that a human must undergo a non-physical (i.e., metaphysical, spiritual, etc.) metamorphosis on the same scale as the change from caterpillar to butterfly, in order to achieve one’s full potential in life.
I must credit the video artist Kaliptus for using this symbolism in the descriptive language for his Vimeo channel, Tryptophanatic Netvision. Since he found me last spring, I’ve thought constantly about what kind of metamorphosis a human could undergo. We hear plenty of talk about the possibility of “rebirth,” but not usually outside the realm of Christian fundamentalism. If that’s the only context in which we can talk about a human metamorphosis, it means most of us aren’t experiencing anything of the sort.
In short, we’re like the caterpillars on St. Kitts, stuck on the sidewalk instead of taking flight. Or we wrap ourselves in a cocoon but can’t figure out how to emerge, and eventually the cocoon becomes a tomb. What’s worse, the human race is approaching a critical period in which it must emerge from a symbolic cocoon or perish within it.
This is one way to explain the purpose of my book. I think the collective cocoon can only open as a direct function of individual metamorphosis. But each of us is in charge of our own transformation!
So that’s where my mind is at. If that sounds good to you, please share my Kickstarter project with your friends, family, colleagues, etc. I’ve made this update public so that people can learn more about my vision for this book. If you’ve already pledged, thanks so much! I promise to post more photos from the Caribbean.