The Caterpillar

There was once a small green caterpillar that crawled along among the branches making its way very slowly. It did this for a long time. Then, one day, something came over it. It did not understand why, but it felt that it must start doing something. The caterpillar didn’t know what to do, but it felt strongly that it must do something. This too went on for a long time.

Then, one day, it began to emit something like silk, and it now had a compulsion to build something, but what was it that it should build? After awhile, it realized that it must build a shelter. So, after studying many branches carefully, it picked a place that no one would notice, and the caterpillar set to work building a shelter on a very small branch. This became an obsessive task, as it found that it could make itself do nothing else but work on its shelter. Then, after much effort, it found that it was getting tired, and so its work on the shelter slowed, and then it worked slower yet.

This really didn’t trouble the caterpillar, as it felt that its work was nearly complete, and later that day, the caterpillar put the last finishing touches on its shelter and sealed itself into its cocoon. There it went to sleep.

As the caterpillar slumbered, it had the most odd and confusing dreams. It dreamt of crawling around along this branch, then along that branch, of branches surrounded by blue sky. Up and down, back and forth, this way, then that way; the images in its dreams moved around and around from one branch to another – so many different twigs and strange places. The caterpillar would toss and turn in its cocoon, trying to find a more comfortable rest in its confinement. This, too, went on a long time until one day it could take no more of this cramped space, and so it pushed outward.

Pushing, prodding, then pushing more, the caterpillar stretched itself. More and more it worked until finally it poked its nose out of its cocoon. Then, pushing harder yet, it finally found itself free of the shelter it built. It sat there next to its cocoon for a while, as it became warm and dried in the light. Then, again, the feeling that it must do something overtook the small creature. It didn’t know what, but there was something it was supposed to do, and it remembered that it had had the oddest dreams. It couldn’t quite recall what they were. What was it that it had been dreaming about, and again, what was it that it was supposed to do? Then, suddenly, when no one was looking, and having no care, it sprung off its legs and flew away as a colorful butterfly, no longer concerned about the matter.

Some say that the butterfly couldn’t remember whether it was dreaming of being a caterpillar. Others thought that it was the caterpillar dreaming about being a butterfly. In the end, no one ever knew what the caterpillar actually dreamt of, yet one thing was sure, the cocoon still remained fixed to the small branch, bearing the truth of what had happened.