This particular quote seems to have its origins from a centuries old Taoist philosopher named Chuang Tzu, and like all of these things, has a much deeper meaning that what we may imagine upon first contact.
Chuang Tzu is regarded as one the towering icons in Taoist thought, just behind its founder Lao Tzu. One day Chuang Tzu fell asleep and had a dream.
He dreamed that he was a butterfly.
He flew about enjoying himself as the butterfly and did not know that he was Chuang Tzu, but just knew that he was a butterfly flying around. Suddenly he awoke and became Chuang Tzu once again.
However, he did not know whether it was Chuang Tzu dreaming that he was a butterfly, or whether it was the butterfly dreaming that it was Chuang Tzu.
This is an interesting situation to be in and one that throws our ideas about reality into question. How do we know our dreams are dreams and our reality, reality?
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This also seems to be a question that pops up in various guises every now and then throughout history. For example, Chuang Tzu lived around the 4th century in China or as it is sometimes known, the warring states period. But there is also another famous philosopher and thinker, who in relatively more modern times, also pondered this idea.
His name was René Descartes and he decided upon a foundation of reality as:
Cogito ergo sum
Or I am thinking, therefore I exist (I think, therefore I am is not a good representation of it). This is another person who has questioned his place in the universe and tried to figure what reality he lives in.
To bring it right up to the (kind of) present day, the matrix is very modern take on this idea and really visualizes it and puts it into a science fiction setting.
Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.
So what does this mean to us, what does it mean to me? Well the caterpillar was going around minding its own business and then it felt a great change coming.
It thought that as it was slowing down and could see the end in sight.
It knew that it was going to die, the world starting to surround it as a cocoon and starting to envelop it with every second.
Not long until complete annihilation of existence and then its eyes shut, for what the caterpillar is sure of being the last time.
But then just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, eruption. Born again as a new being. Alive and beautiful and also now it has wings! Can fly and flutter and blow in the wind.
Not dead, but reborn.
Not dead, but a different being.
Not dead,… but alive.
If you can imagine what the last few thoughts of the caterpillar may have been, you can imagine the feeling of loss and lack of control. How frightening; how sad.
But now imagine how it felt when it emerged from its slumber, life anew and ready to take on the world. From a slow death and transformation, the creature went from a small animal into a magnificent creature that can fly and float on the breeze.
I look at this quote as a way to really know that anyone can transform themselves into anything they desire and truly become great.
Just you think that life has dealt you some really shitty hands and everything is spiraling out of control; along comes something amazing that can give you new life.
Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over it found a new life as something truly beautiful. You can be reborn without physically dying.
You can emerge from your lowest point a butterfly of such tremendous colour and splendor, that you will instantly forget the problems that ailed you.
For this, meditation can help and finding some kind of path in your life to follow will really help you to focus on your dreams and goals.
So what do you think, am I way off, have mumbled on a bit without giving any kind of substance? If any of that, or to give your interpretation, or even just to say hi, let me know in the comments below!