Mind your manners and mix your metaphors

During a rain storm last week, I saw a caterpillar scooting across the sidewalk.  He was trying to get from one rain soaked area of grass, to another.  It seemed like he was going in a new direction to a better, drier place, but he was really going to end up in a location much like where he started from.  Since I was walking there, it was not exactly the safest place for him to be.  But, I happened to be looking down, and he was spared the weight of my 200 lbs on his back.

Someday, if he makes it, he will become a butterfly.  You usually don’t see butterflies moving about in the rain.  Rather, we often see them on a bright sunny day when times are carefree and relaxed.  The butterfly can see where he is going from his view up high, and he has the wings to get him there.  If the wind blows the right way, he doesn’t really have to work much at all to get where he wants to be.  Being a butterfly is pretty sweet.

Maybe you can see the life metaphor within the caterpillar/butterfly example.  It’s not all that subtle, but it is something that might encourage you in the right moment, the next time you feel stuck and see a caterpillar struggling around on its belly like the cursed serpent of the Garden of Eden.  Perhaps the sight of a butterfly will raise your spirits and put a song in your heart when you realize how free you are, just like your winged friend.

It’s lovely and touching.

The only problem is… it’s not always the case with life as we know it.

There are times at the beginning of an endeavor when everything comes fast and easy.  The rails of life are greased with opportunity butter, and you’re coasting at a comfortable speed.  The grasshopper flies around and eats whenever he feels like it, not seeing the need to store up food for a drought or a literal rainy day.  The tiny ant works hard and saves food up for those hard times.  He doesn’t enjoy the beginning of the season when much time is spent searching and gathering, but he does live to eat and survive through the winter.

I promise that I didn’t just watch “A Bug’s Life”.  But my mind was taken to these fables and metaphors because of the stories I have heard and the movies that I have seen.  We are still dealing with bugs, but these stories seem to be painting different pictures of life and experience.

Or are they?

Metaphor, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder.

If you are moved to tears by a song that reminds you of a romantic relationship, and you later learn that the artist was singing about her dog, does that change the authenticity of your feelings?  Individual interpretation happens at nearly every experience of life.  You may even feel differently about an experience in the past just by remembering it now, based on your current knowledge, understanding, and feelings.  Its difficult to say if we can be truly objective about anything.

If a friend’s death causes you to slow down and smell the roses, or get busy with some task that you were delaying, both are constructive and positive.

Very little of life is either/or.  It’s not always black and white.  Some principles are not foolproof and will fail when applied liberally to all of your dilemmas.  There is often an exception that proves the rule.

So as you enjoy today, and experience a metaphor for life, pay attention to how your actions follow your understanding of that metaphor.  If there is a disconnect, then I would guess there to be another stronger principle in your life that is overlapping and overriding what you observed today.  Keep seeking.  Find the principles that are truly guiding your life and your actions.

And remember…. mind your manners and mix your metaphors.