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A LUCILIUS PARABLE: CONCRETE BUTTERFLY

June 2nd, 2019

 

 

This episode is dedicated to Charles.

 

 

Lucilius was called upon to pay a visit to a troubled young man, who had been cursed with an indelible sadness, resigning himself to his room for months.  To the young man’s parents the boy was sick, but none of their feeble help seemed to do anything.  And so after exhausting their efforts they asked if Lucilius might help.  Lucilius told them he wasn’t sure he could be of any help, but that he would meet with the boy.

 

 

 

“You are here to cure me?” The boy said with exhausted scorn, without hope nor pleasure.

 

“I don’t claim to cure anything.”

 

“Then why are you here?”

 

“I’m not sure yet.  Hopefully to do no harm, and with luck, maybe be some help, but the truth being, I know nothing of the hell within you.”

 

“Then you know about as much as I do.  I don’t know why I am this way.”

 

“Is it important to know why?” Lucilius asked.

 

“If I knew why, then I could fix it, like anything else that is broken.  If you know how it is broken then you know why it doesn’t work, and with that you can begin to fix things.  But I don’t know why, or how.  I just am this way.”

 

“You assume something is broken.”

 

“Of course, other people don’t feel this way.”

 

“Different does not necessarily mean broken.”  Lucilius said.

 

The boy looked hard at Lucilius.  “Well I feel broken.”

 

“On the contrary, someone who can withstand the burden of such heavy things must be strong.”

 

The boy’s hard stare was unchanged, unmoved, perhaps sadder still at the mention of a word and feeling that felt so far away.  He merely looked back to a corner of the room where there seemed to be refuge.  Lucilius looked around the room and saw in the bright split between dark curtain and the edge of a window, a moth slowly flapping its wings on the sill, exhausted and trapped.

 

“May I open a window a little?” Lucilius asked.  The boy only shrugged his shoulders, so, Lucilius got up and cracked the window.  The small breeze made the moth’s wings tremble a little, and it lifted on the fresh air and fluttered out into the sky.  Lucilius watched it a moment, thinking.

 

“In a valley between mountains, there was a colony of butterflies,” Lucilius began, “and among them was born a butterfly made of concrete.”

 

The young man looked over at Lucilius, confused and feeling for once in a long while: curiosity.

 

“The concrete butterfly emerged from his leathery cocoon and saw all around it butterflies quickly fluttering their delicate wings and lifting easily, gently into the air.  The concrete butterfly tried to do the same, flapping its rigid heavy wings, but he felt no lift.  The other butterflies soon noticed him, so different from all the rest.  And in their ignorance, they grew fearful, and they quelled that fear by making fun of the concrete butterfly.  Their careless loud remarks drifted down from the flickering crowd, and the concrete butterfly looked on his own body and understood their disgust, their hate.  He began to crawl away from the colony of butterflies and soon found a crack in the mountain’s side.  He crawled into the darkness and wept about himself.  And again the next day when he awoke and crawled outside, forgetting his heavy wings and heavy body, the other butterflies, seeing him flapping his wings as though he might fly laughed and jeered at him until he resigned himself back to his cave, where he wept again, but he stopped short with a strange thought.  The grass did not fly, nor the trees nor the flowers nor the pond nor the mountains.  Perhaps he wasn’t a butterfly, he wondered, and suddenly those other butterflies seemed now so different from himself.  But what was he, he wondered?  By this time, he was so tired, exhausted, he decided he didn’t care, and with that final thought he fell into a deep slumber.  From then on he only ventured out for the nectar of young flowers that were not far of the ground, one’s that he could bend down with his heavy arms and drink from, and always keeping far from the colony down in the valley.

 

He kept to himself in this way, until a fateful day when he woke and heard a crashing sound coming from the mouth of the cave.  He lifted his heavy body and lumbered toward the jagged shape of light that on this day was not bright, but dim and flashed with brilliant light with each crashing sound.  The concrete butterfly emerged to find a great storm raging through the valley, and in the torrent of rain and wind that seemed to rake the trees painfully of their leaves, the concrete butterfly realized that not all were leaves being shorn from the waving branches.  In the mess of the air, the colony of butterflies were helpless on their withered, wet and pelted wings, rolling dangerously in the chaos.

 

The concrete butterfly watched as the torrent slammed one butterfly from the colony into the rock face, crumpling it’s body, it’s wings in tatters.  In that moment of horror, the concrete butterfly felt something else, something he’d never felt before.  The wind edging beneath his folded wings.  Without thinking, he spread his wings, and the fierce wind caught them, and for the first time the concrete butterfly lifted high into the sky.  His strong, heavy wings balanced against the onslaught of wind and smoothed the pressure it brought like wide knives.  In that moment the concrete butterfly forgot about everything and felt for the first time the sheer pleasure of taking flight.  Intuitively, he started tilting his wings to the different crashing currents of wind, all the while rising higher and higher into the sky.  He felt instantly as though this was not some second-nature, but his first, and knew that he had been living a life in wait for this moment.  But he still had not fully realized just what his life had been in wait for.  The pleasure of that first flight calmed, just enough and he looked down, and saw again, now below him, the violence being done to the great colony of butterflies.  He heard their pain and sorrow as they screamed, helpless in the storm, and the concrete butterfly reacted without thinking:  He tilted himself forward and drew his wings in and dove down towards the colony with tremendous speed.

 

Just as his strong legs grasped another butterfly as it tumbled through the air, the concrete butterfly spread it’s wings and carried the other, swiftly riding the crazed wind until he was back at his cave.  The colony butterfly was terrified and confused at the sudden calmness of the cave and looked back just in time to see the concrete butterfly spreading it’s wings once more and lifting into the the storm. 

 

 

He worked tirelessly, using the great wind of the storm to save the colony from the storm, plucking each of them from the rolling wind and bringing them back to the cave, until the cave was full and the muddle of air and sky was clear of butterflies.  The last of them safely in the cave, the whole colony stared in fear and awe at the concrete butterfly.  He looked at them all once more, deciding that he only cared that they were safe.  Then he turned a lumbered back out of the cave.

 

The colony watched on as the concrete butterfly spread his wings and lifted into the storm, to play, on  great winds that they could not handle.”

 

 

 

The young man was staring at the floor.  He finally breathed in, deeply, as if to sigh.

 

“You’re saying some great difficulty - some kind of storm - is headed my way?”

 

“Maybe.  There’s no telling what might be around the corner for us.  But, it seems you can probably handle whatever comes your way.”

 

The young man let out a single, doubtful hiccup of laughter, “What makes you say that?” he asked.

 

“You are still here.”


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