The Human Metamorphosis

met·a·mor·pho·sis [met-uh-mawr-fuh-sis] noun, plural- A profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism, as from the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the adult butterfly.

The life cycle, or metamorphosis of a butterfly is simple: larvae, caterpillar, pupa, adult butterfly. A butterfly is a rather simple organism. The more complex the organism, the more complex the metamorphosis. Human beings are the most complex organism on the planet and therefore, our metamorphosis isn’t so straight forward.

Throughout our lifetime we are forever transforming. It starts with a tremendous outer growth. In 40 weeks a single human egg cell can grow into a 7lb baby. My son is 5 months old and he literally looks like a new person every week. My toddler grows out of her shoes every four months. As adults, the different cell types of our bodies are shed, repaired and regenerated sometimes daily. Scientists estimate that we regenerate almost every cell in our bodies every 10 years.

As we get older the outer metamorphosis slows and (hopefully) the inner metamorphosis accelerates. As we settle into our bones and make peace with our bodies our minds start to expand. For better or worse, we are familiar with the way we look on the outside. As we get older, we feel the need to become just as familiar with the way we feel on the inside. It’s not an easy or simplistic growth chart.

Many of us who are in, approaching, or have already experienced our 30′s might have noticed something happening in this peer group. I call it, The Great 30′s Shake Down. It’s that time in life when people start to splinter off into groups of like-minded people. They also get divorced, downward spiral or commit to a career path or faith. It’s the cycle in our metamorphosis when we tend to step back and ask… “What is it that I really believe?” And if your life isn’t all that you’d imagined it to be (and let’s face it, it rarely is by the time you reach your 30′s) or perhaps a little scarier than you’d imagined, you start to ask yourself, “Is this all there is?” That question is usually followed closely by “Oh God, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, PLEASE don’t let this be ALL there is?!”

These questions are the beginning of the inner metamorphosis.

Some people get scared at this process, and rightly so. It’s a hard and winding road toward discovering your inner world. It’s full of wrong turns, detours and obsticals. It’s not only difficult, but it’s scary because there are demons to slay and pasts to make peace with along the way. It takes a fortification of the gut that many people don’t yet know they have in their 30′s. For many, this process is prolonged until their 40′s, 50′s or unfortunately, maybe never.

Many will decide to put their faith in something that millions of others have put their faith in. They put their faith in something outside themselves where thousands of other’s have claimed they have found all the answers. And many of those thousands will have found what they were looking for but not unless, and until, they searched inward, too. The journey to discovering of your inner-self can only be found inside YOU.

This inner journey, if you’re willing to take it, unlocks your purpose in life. It unlocks the purpose of life. If you think I’m talking about a state of nirvana wherein all your problems blow away on the wind well… I am… and I’m not.  You can certainly find that happy place, but it takes years and years of practice to maintain it. The inner journey is never-ending, like a spiral into and out of everything. It is the last frontier in our modern world and it knows no bounds and has no limits. It’s a journey worth the effort, but might I suggest taking some Pepto Bismal because this metamorphosis isn’t for the weak constitution.

I am still on this journey. I have had mere seconds of understanding the depth of what I attempt to write about here, but those seconds have clung to me like a promise of wings.

If a butterfly isn’t allowed to break through the chrysalis by itself, it will never gain the strength to fly. If you’re willing to build the strength it takes break through your own cage, the payoff is as wonderful, as simple, as liberating and as beautiful as a butterfly.

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasures you seek. ~ Joseph Campbell

4 thoughts on “The Human Metamorphosis

  1. Pingback: The Song of the Cicada « Shannon Lell

  2. Pingback: Life: A Metamorphosis. « the unbearable lightness of being me.

  3. Great post, Shannon. (I especially love that Joseph Campbell quote at the end — a new one for me.) As an adult, it’s fascinating watching a kid change: their transformations are so immediate, obvious, and outward. Ours are so the opposite. I’m much more oriented to the adult world and way of being that sometimes watching my daughter’s changes can be downright shocking.

    I love this idea, too, that we all have to break out of our OWN chrysalis, or we won’t have the strength to fly. Butterflies serve as such powerful metaphors, don’t they?

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