Inside the cocoon the caterpillar digests itself. It deliquesces its nervous system, guts, mouth, eyes, muscles, and legs. What does it feel like to melt? I would hesitate to say it feels like “becoming yourself”. What if one day after a big salad you suddenly started to feel very sick. You went to lie down, rubbing your temples. Maybe a migraine was blooming behind your eyes. When, suddenly, you realized your skin was sloughing off. There was a tidal pool where your chest should be. There is every reason to believe that the caterpillar’s metamorphosis feels terrifying. Or that it feels like death. I wonder if the radical inability to classify the experience is a necessary ingredient in transformation. Each one of the caterpillar’s cells has held this secret ability to self-destruct since birth. This, to me, seems the most comforting thing. Even if the mind is destabilized, literally liquefied, by the transformation, even if the body puddles, you are being “authored” at a deeper level than mind or skin-silhouette. You are being distilled by the intuition of your own cells. A few “imaginal disc cells” remain constant that then “use” the slush of protein and matter to compose a butterfly.
Tomb or womb, the cocoon is a vessel. An autopoietic boat through the meltwater of your own transformation. It both creates and shapes disorder. An interesting fact is that the caterpillar and the butterfly both “fit” inside of the cocoon. When we digest ourselves, we create ourselves. Not a single cell is expendable. Nothing is discarded. The butterfly, then, is a remarkable act of inclusion. No part of the caterpillar will be exiled from the ecstasy of flight. Yet no part of the caterpillar will remain unchanged.