Listen to this Story
Narrated by Anjan Prakash
THE UNBROKEN WEAVE
Disconnectifly woke up pretty late this morning too, and found that the rest of her community had long left the rock crevice where they rested the nights. After all it was early summer, and with just two weeks more left to mate and lay eggs, most of her friends were out and about seeking the right partner, and few of them had even laid eggs.
Disconnectifly wasn’t interested in any of this.
She dragged herself to the nearest passion flower that was in full bloom, welcoming her with an eager smile, looking forward to being pollinated.
Instead Disconnectifly slumped herself on the petals and muttered, `Hi, what do you look happy about? I spent a week as an egg, four weeks as a caterpillar, then stayed cocooned as a chrysalis for another two weeks, to become this butterfly I am. Just three days ago, when I came out of my chrysalis, I got to know that I only have about two weeks to live on this earth, and during these two weeks, I have to find food, find a mate, and then lay eggs. All this for what? To die right after.”
The passion flower continued to be mesmerised by the gorgeous transparent wings of Disconnectifly, bordered with chocolate colour with red dots. ‘One-of-a-kind’, she thought, while Disconnectifly continued, `The trees, the birds and so many other insects like the cicadas, queen termites, live for years. I ask you, how can such a short life have any purpose or meaning? Did I struggle so much through each phase, escaping predators, to become this creature of beauty, for just a few days?’
Listening to such a long complaint first thing in the morning, the passion flower felt like her entire morning enthusiasm was drained. She decided to make herself a cup of coffee, and hoped Disconnectifly would soon be on her way, so she can restart the day, attracting happier butterflies.
Disconnectifly, flew to a fence and sat there sulking, occasionally glancing at her family and other butterflies out and about in the garden. She couldn’t believe that none of them were concerned about how unfair life was. Especially when so many weird, ugly looking creepy-crawlies had been gifted a longer life!
Just then an Oriental Magpie Robin came and perched next to her, puffing up his feathers, singing, as he had spotted a young and interesting female in the nearby bush. Disconnectifly looked at him and unable to bear his joy, interrupted, `So, I believe you get to enjoy life for about 12-15 years. Is that true? I am sure you have a list of things you wish to do, places to visit, food to explore. Hmmm, looks like soon you will even have a partner. Lucky you, you don’t get to die after mating, and neither does she after laying eggs. Very blessed, unlike me’.
The Oriental Magpie had never met a butterfly with such heaviness in the heart, looking at life as a punishment. It was such a lovely summer day, right after spring, and he decided to fly closer to the bush, and not lose the happiness in his courting tone, hoping to win the female’s attention soon.
‘Oof, everyone is so busy with their lives. Even my own community seems to be having a frolicking time feeding together on the same plants, sunbathing, mudpuddling, and what not. Are they not worried, or angry, that everyone around is using them, without giving any thought to how meaningless our lives are?’, Disconnectifly, glanced around with a sense of disgust.
Tears of frustration then rolled out of her eyes, ‘I don’t even have friends who care. Ever since I got out of the chrysalis, I have been trying so hard to get support so we can rally together on this injustice. But these butterflies, they just wish to go about their work. Even if they don’t find food, or partner, they return home at night giggling, laughing, and sharing about their adventures. How immature to not be aware that this is all possible for just two weeks. What’s the purpose?’
And so over the next three days, Clouds of Gloom began to form and surround Disconnectifly.
A sense of choicelessness in her life; of envy when she looked at other creatures in her habitat; anger at how life had short-changed her; fear; loneliness; and a deep bitterness as each day passed. During the three days, she flew around cribbing to the earthworms, to the trees, to more flowers, at the same time avoiding the company of other butterflies even if they were keen to have a word with her. She just snapped at them, with the lines, `I don’t think you will ever understand’.
Now, strangely, by the third day, the energy of the whole forest started to dip. Flowers were found cribbing or snapping at butterflies, the songs of birds didn’t have the same notes of joy, mushrooms and termites weren’t decomposing as quickly, fruits began to lose their sweetness, the sun was lost behind the Clouds of Gloom, with hardly any space for light to enter.
This seemed like a different version of the Butterfly Effect, associated with Edward Norton Lorenz, the mathematician and meteorologist. He had begun to present as a part of his `Chaos Theory’, how a minor perturbation like a distant butterfly flapping her wings several weeks earlier, can cause a storm elsewhere in the world. It was to show how small things, can have large effects on the weather.
Disconnectifly’s purposeless energy was beginning to slowly but surely infect the entire forest. Migratory creatures expected that week of summer, just didn’t show up. The food chain was being broken.
Poor Disconnectifly. She now only treaded the shadows. Shadows of flowers, shadows of leaves, shadows of trees and shadows of grass. While many of the butterflies were trying to figure ways to help her, in other species the coat of defence and survival was ON.
That evening there was a murmur in the forest that this situation could soon wake up the forest Goddess, called the Web-Of-Life. The Web-Of-Life Goddess was the keeper and nourisher of all Life in the forests. She carefully guarded the threads that connects all creatures.
The last time Web-of-Life had woken up, was several decades ago, when a virus had affected the whole forest and Her intervention was essential for the survival of the habitat.
The next morning, exactly a week since Disconnectifly had become a butterfly, she entered a small dark cave at the edge of the forest. She had decided since there was just another week or so of her life left, might as well start the process of decay and death, by isolating herself totally. The clouds of gloom that now hung over the cave were heavy, dark, thick, and ominous, and their essence covered the whole forest.
Fairies, elves, and other spirits of the forest had gathered under the 3,600 aerial roots of the Great Banyan Tree, by noon. This mini grove stretching far and wide for four acres, is where the Goddess, Web-Of-Life, had lived for hundreds of years, managing the weave of the web of life. The spirits and creatures of the forest never troubled Her, unless the weave was being broken and threatened. And threatened it was, what with even migratory species avoiding the land.
The Awakening ritual for the Goddess began – Fairies started to blow the conches, elves beating the drums, the spirits of the forest commenced the big dance, as it took twelve hours of such a ritual for the Web-Of-Life Goddess to wake up.
More and more creatures of the forest joined the ritual with fairies, elves and spirits of the forest. Before night fell almost all the creatures, except the sick, the wounded, and Disconnectifly, were in a giant assembly of thousands, adding to the conches, the drums and the dance.
A little before midnight, the 3600 aerial roots of the grove began to move together, and the fairies, elves and spirits of the forest, saw a smoke from the ground escape into the air, in the direction of the cave where Disconnectifly was hiding.
Dot midnight, a striking, glowing face emerged out of the Banyan Grove. Long aerial roots as her hair, that ran till her feet ornamented by creatures of the underground earth, exotic flowers donning her neck, hands filled with bracelets made of seeds, her legs running deep into the earth, her whole body towering over the canopy. It felt like the ground beneath their feet came alive. The Goddess, Web-Of-Life had indeed awakened.
The ritual dropped into silence, the air became quiet and gentle, the water calm and flowing, and perched on the right hand palm of the Goddess Web-of-Life was Disconnectifly. The clouds of gloom hung on top of her. She appeared weary and tired, yet one saw a slight glint of wonder in her eyes, something that hadn’t been seen by anyone for a while. She looked awestruck by Web-Of-Life, and seeing how all the beings in the forest had gathered.
Web-Of-Life, looked at Disconnectifly and spoke in the most compassionate tone, `Dear beautiful one, I am the Goddess, Web-Of-Life. I hear that you have been burdened by the concept of purpose and meaning of life on earth. Is that so?’
The rest of the gathering answered first on her behalf, `yes, yes, she has’.
Web-Of-Life raised her hand to indicate she wished to hear directly from Disconnectifly.
Disconnectifly looked up and with a choked throat replied, `Yes, I have been. It is so hard to find meaning in life. And what is possible in two or three weeks of my life? And one more thing, if I can ask, why are you called the Web-Of-Life?’
Now Web-Of-Life, smiled, `Those are two lovely questions, Disconnectifly. Thank you for asking. Before we come to these questions, I wish to ask you a few more, to understand the problem on hand better, are you okay with that?.’
Disconnectifly said, `Yes. Sure’.
Everyone gathered sighed with relief. For the first time Disconnectifly was willing to cooperate.
And with this the following exchange took place between Web-Of-Life: (WOL) and Disconnectifly (D):
WOL: When you were a caterpillar, and were busy chomping on all the leaves voraciously, as you were hungry all the time, did you think about the meaning and purpose of life?
D: No, I needed the food and energy to move into chrysalis stage. I was busy with it.
WOL: When you were cocooned in the chrysalis, did you think about the meaning and purpose of life?
D: No, I was busy recycling my cells and rebirthing to become who I am now.
WOL: After you became this beautiful butterfly you are now, and you felt there is nothing more to become, did you have enough time to meet this thing called `Life’ over the last one week? Has anyone you spoke to, come across Life?
D looked pretty puzzled by this question: Hmmm, I mean, I met a lot of them present here, the earthworms, trees, birds, flowers, and spoke to them. So when you say Life, aren’t all of them who are gathered here, what is referred to as Life? If you feel they are Life, then yes, I have met them, but if there is someone called Life, no, I haven’t yet.’
But as Disconnectifly said this, something in her stance relaxed.
WOL: When you went to meet the Passion flower, who was so excited you were visiting her, did you ask her how she was doing?
D: No, I didn’t. But I spoke to her.
WOL: About yourself?
D added a bit sheepishly: Yes
WOL: When the Magpie Robin was singing to court the female, did you ask him, if you can help?
D: No, I didn’t.
WOL: When the other butterflies, came forward to support and help you, did you extend a hand of friendship to them?
D: No, I didn’t, how could they have helped me?
WOL: Do you think that you are designed to get through living this life alone?
D was a bit taken aback: It feels like. I don’t know…
WOL: Over the last one week, when you were hungry, have you been drinking nectar from the flowers?
D: Yes, on and off, when I am really hungry.
WOL: Did you ask what the flowers might want from you, for giving you their nectar? After drinking from a flower, I heard you go hide in the shadows, without mingling with other flowers, is that correct?
At this point, Disconnectifly’s eyes began to swell up in tears. Something within her felt a tug. She didn’t reply to this question, and just bent her head.
Web-Of-Life touched Disconnectifly’s head, and said, `And one last question, do you find members of this forest family hiding from doing what they are here to do – whether it is to gather food, find a partner and mate, build nests, lay eggs, raise their young, sing those beautiful bird songs each different from the other, and doing things that only they can do? Doing what is so natural to them? Are they using their gifts, or wasting it?
Disconnectifly sat still for some time. The clouds of gloom that surrounded her – cloud of choicelessness, bitterness, anger, that looked ominous, dark and heavy, started to look less dark, less heavy.
Disconnectifly whispered and yet everyone could hear that night, as that was the quality of silence, `True, Web-Of-Life. As I think aloud, I do know that all these lovely beings here, show up fully and do what they are meant to do – like the passion flowers make nectar, which the magpie robin cannot, the magpie robin sings and flies distances, which the flowers cannot. Us butterflies can carry pollen so efficiently flower to flower but only because we cannot make nectar. And when I see all of us together in one place, like now, I can see how we all are, because of each other, and this forest is, because of how we each use our uniqueness’.
Not just Web-Of-Life, but every single creature’s eyes had now swelled up in tears. They all huddled closer to each other, and Disconnectifly looked into everyone’s eyes for the first time since she had become a butterfly.
`But…’, asked Disconnectifly flying and sitting on the hair of Web-Of-Life where a bunch of mole rats were sitting together listening closely with their babies, ‘…but, Web-Of-Life, what then is the purpose and meaning of life?’
The entire gathering burst out laughing, this time seeing that Disconnectifly was coming from a different space. The clouds of gloom were much lighter now, and many stars became visible, and everybody’s face became lit by a shaft of moonlight.
Web-Of-Life, laughed and said, `Now is the right time to answer this question. As you beautifully became aware, we are all together in this web of life, interconnected and interdependent, with each of our unique gifts. But all of these gifts are only precious, if while using it, they offer something to another creature or many creatures present here’.
Web-Of-Life heard a resounding `hmmm…yes, true that, true that’ from many of the older members of the forest – the wise trees, the old monkeys, the grandmother elephants, and more.
‘For example…’, Web-Of-Life continued, looking at Disconnectifly and the other younger members gathered, and expanded on this, ‘…in your case, the flower produces nectar and pollen, but they only become valuable, because a butterfly needs the nectar, and in the process can carry the pollen which is necessary to create more flowers. You have to be able to give while taking, and then you naturally get a chance to take while giving. It is called reciprocity’, and saying that, she paused, so all young ones could assimilate it.
`For example, when you were a caterpillar you took from the plant gluttonously, and when you became a butterfly, you get to give back to plants. If you had only taken and you hadn’t become a butterfly, I would have had to select you out of this web of life. Each of us together weave the whole web, and if one of us decides to break it, they are guided and advised, and if that doesn’t work, they are warned. If even warning doesn’t work, then over a period of time, they are removed from the web that connects us all’, said Web-Of-Life, with that deep sense of clarity.
Disconnectifly broke into a smile, and nodded, like for the first time, she could get a glimpse of her truth within, and she also became aware why this Goddess is called Web-Of-Life.
Web-Of-Life added, ` So Purpose my dear, is this active giving and receiving in a nourishing way, from the gift that is wholly yours in this birth. In doing so, you keep this web of life strong and sustaining for your generation and the future generations. And Meaning, is the outcome of offering such a service through this Purpose.’
All the Elders gathered, uttered, `Precious wisdom, precious wisdom’.
Disconnectifly’s eyes were now wide open, and one couldn’t miss the flow of the rich wisdom, into her heart, and that of all other young ones who had gathered.
Web-Of-Life, now faced the entire gathering, and placed Disconnectifly amidst everyone. The other butterflies, came and surrounded her. Web-Of-Life told Disconnectifly, `Life is a verb sweetheart, it is all in the living. The day you stopped embodying the gifts as a butterfly and spreading it around, you lost the purpose, and with it the meaning. Why? Because you stopped living. You forgot the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.’
Disconnectifly nodded, she had certainly been answered and awakened.
Web-Of-Life bent down, and said, `Hereon, till you live, your name will be, Grace-the-Butterfly’.
The entire gathering cheered, and the clouds dissolved revealing a full sky of stars, and moonlight covered the whole forest. Web-Of-Life kissed Grace-the-Butterfly, whose transparent wings were glittering in the light. Grace-the-Butterfly sat on the face of Web-Of-Life and kissed her cheek and said, `Thank you Goddess, you have brought me back home. I shall live the next few days of my life through the gifts I hold, and thrive, showing up for this one big family I belong to. I now know why you are the Goddess Web-Of-Life’.
Web-Of-Life, smiled and blessed the whole gathering, `May the web of life, continue. May the forest thrive. May the Grace in all of you prosper’, and slowly vanished into the Banyan Grove.
That night, the forest celebrated, and everyone slept late into the morning. Except, Grace-the-Butterfly. She had work to attend to.
Ten days later, underneath one of the Passion vines, there was a cluster of butterfly eggs, which only the Web-Of-Life could see, and the plant could sense, as it should be so.
With this, I come to the end of the story, but the beginning of Grace-The-Butterfly’s next generation.
Thank you for reading. I look forward to hearing from you. Have a Graceful weekend, filled with butterflies and more.