The moment was perfect. The lighting was exquisite and the composition seemed to beckon my shutter to release.
As if posing for my camera, that magnificent butterfly rested stately upon a rugged log – a perfect extension of its unique form and detail. It was nature in harmony, beauty in simplicity, and survival through a perfect blend with its surroundings.
Yet from the viewfinder, it was far more. My subject was a phenomenal creature up close, magnified by a lens that revealed extraordinary detail and form I had never before witnessed.
I couldn’t wait to process that image later in the evening with a computer. To my surprise, the monitor actually revealed more than I noticed with the naked eye hours before. I saw thousands of years of evolution etched into brilliant wing patterns, which from a distance, disappeared perfectly into its rustic setting. The wisdom of nature to hide such beauty from countless predators left me awestruck. “Magnificence unscathed,” I thought to myself after I printed the photo, gazed at it for awhile and drifted off to sound sleep.
The next morning brought renewed energy and exhilaration. As the sun flirted with the horizon, I sipped a cup of coffee and reexamined the 8×10 souvenir of the day prior. Marveling at the stunning model of nature, I felt fortunate to have frozen one special moment in an artistic medium.
As I closed my eyes, I began to imagine my subject’s lifecycle; an industrious caterpillar transforming into a transparent chrysalis suspended from one hidden limb among millions of similar branches in a dense forest. I could see the creature slowly emerge from its translucent veil with wings gently dried by sun rays piercing the majestic canopy. Seemingly lighter than air, it floated at first, then drifted and finally set its wings in slow motion beginning a journey toward its destiny through an airborne cycle of life. “Ah … to be a butterfly,” I imagined. How much easier than being human?
Just then upon opening my eyes, I was suddenly taken back by what hadn’t been obvious previously. My inner reflections shifted. This supposedly “perfect” specimen wasn’t so perfect after all. Actually its wings were rather tattered. Ragged, in fact, is more descriptive – irregular to the extent that perhaps it was no longer capable of flight. How could I have missed those obvious defects? I had been staring at my not-so-masterful masterpiece for quite some time. Or was it a masterpiece?
Reevaluating the photo with more scrutiny, I initially reasoned that the flawed photo was no more than “ordinary.” I simply resigned to tuck it away in a manila folder with all my not-so-perfect shots. Yet as the day progressed, I was drawn to the image over and over again. It seemed frustratingly impossible to escape.
Then his word’s echoed clearly in my mind. I had interviewed him just a few weeks ago on my syndicated NPR radio program, Mind Body Matters. His insights were proof that when the student is in need, the teacher appears. Actually I had longed to speak with him for years, but I couldn’t track him down. I’ll never forget his response to one question I always wanted to ask which was “How do you know what to write about?”
The world-renowned author of the classic talking seagull replied, “The way I find a book to write is when some idea comes crashing through to me and will not let me go. I try to run away from it. If I can’t turn away, then at last, I give in. You are so fascinating dear idea, I don’t know what you want me to say, but as of this moment you now control my hands on this keyboard.”
And through his words I took another look. It was clearer now in many ways. No matter how closely I scrutinized the defects and scars … remnants of obvious life-threatening challenges, the butterfly simply radiated a beauty that was absolutely inescapable. Yet the real lesson was in the perspective, for I simply could not focus on what had been lost.
My attention immediately turned to some of my unforgettable patients whose experiences have left scars that are deeply etched within them as seemingly everlasting self-reflections. While they focus on their tattered wings every moment of every day, I am drawn to their beauty, their uniqueness and the divinity that’s expressed by their souls.
Some exist as betrayed, abused, paralyzed, and scorned. They’re stuck in what used to be, and long for the parts that have been sheared away by a lifetime of pain and suffering … and loss. Existence for many is an expression of disability rather than in the ability to live, to grow and to evolve into whole people again in mind, body and spirit. It hasn’t dawned on them that they are perfect souls simply inhabiting temporary bodies that show the wear and tear of survival.
Just as the butterfly will never re-grow its missing wing parts (in this life-cycle anyway), the fragments of existence that are lost from one’s life will not reappear. Yet in their place is a needed void – one that beacons filling one moment at a time. In that space, Richard Bach enabled Jonathan Livingston Seagull to emerge. In your space, amidst the beauty you are, anything is possible when you see with your understanding – Mind Over Matter!
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Barry Bittman, MD is a neurologist, author, international speaker, inventor and researcher. He is the CEO and Director of the Mind-Body Wellness Center, 18201 Conneaut Lake Road in Meadville, phone (814) 724-1765, fax (814) 333-8662, http://www.mind-body.org.