This morning I decided to share with you, gentle reader, a longer passage from one of Greenleaf’s essays. I will not comment upon it and I invite you to spend some time reflecting upon the story and Greenleaf’s interpretation in order to see what emerges for you. Greenleaf writes:
One day a friend told of coming upon a scene in which two boys were kneeling in great concern over a grating that protected a sunken window well. In the enclosed space was a beautiful butterfly that had apparently gone there in its earlier state. When it emerged from the chrysalis as a butterfly it could not escape the bars; and the bars were firmly fixed. Behind the two boys stood two women who had been attracted by the boys’ concern for the hurt of the natural world.
But it can be seen another way. Every aspect of it: the butterfly, the bars, the boys, the women can also be seen symbolically. This simple scene then has the possibility of a great drama upon the inward stage in which these are parts of each of us.
The butterfly might be our beautiful loving self (truly a gift of grace). The bars can be the hardened attitudes of the inhuman in us that keep our natural loveliness imprisoned. The boys could represent our creative capacity for awareness – youthful, naïve, trusting, wondering. The adults may be our rational, responsible – perhaps impersonal – self that thinks of its role as good but would not be aware of the imprisoning beauty except as that awareness is mediated by the boys.
Seeing the story this way does not answer the human dilemma; it is not a key or a way out. But it is a message – perhaps a great message – from the environment that could pass unnoticed. It is part of the vast world of symbolic communication, the riches of wisdom in which we are all constantly immersed but which some of us miss altogether. This could be what prompted William Blake to say, ‘if the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to me as it is – infinite.’