The miniature masterpiece painting with wings. One of the Supreme Creators most beautiful creations. A living-breathing-and-flying piece of Divine artwork with a powerful, transformative story behind it's unique creation and crawl-to-fly evolution. The butterfly.
Often the most attention-grabbing mobile sparkle on any Springtime scenery, the butterfly flutters and flaunts its decorative wings with an ostentatious I-Only-Live-Once (and for short period of time) confidence, floating freely like a feather drifting in a breeze until it reaches its desired goal: a fragrant, sweet flower.
The life of a butterfly wasn't always so easy and beautiful in the beginning; in fact, it was just the opposite. Hard and ugly. The life cycle of a butterfly occurs in 4 stages: the egg, the larva(caterpillar), the chrysalis(cocoon), and finally, the adult---the colorfully patterned flying insects that we admire on greeting cards, in publications, in our backyards, and at the Butterfly Center in the Natural Science Museum, as I did this past week.
The life span of a butterfly varies from a few weeks to as long as one year (but no species of butterflies live longer than one year), but most butterflies, on average, live for several weeks. The butterfly is the adult stage, and the best/final stage, of the 4-stage insect. When a butterfly lands and slowly flaps its originally patterned wings(like humans with fingerprints, no two butterfly wing patterns are alike), I think, because it lives for such a short period of time, the butterfly, in all its majestic insect Renaissance royalty, wants someone, at least one person, to gaze at it's beautifully designed wings before it passes on (no form of life ever dies). Besides procreating and pollinating, I believe the butterfly's purpose in life is for someone to see it and, in that single moment, to appreciate it's beauty. For what good is beauty if no one ever gets to see it?
As the butterfly, I believe we have to go through necessary stages of growth and development before we can become a person of significance/success en route to our various goals in life towards fulfilling our purpose on this earth. Reaching our goals without plans and stages to prepare us for our own version of success is just as impossible as it is for a caterpillar to fly. (A caterpillar cannot fly until its transformed during the cocoon stage.) We have to go through something in order to become something (or someone). Failure and defeat are often prerequisite stages to success.
As people, like the butterfly, we will be confined inside challenging cocoons that will demand the best of us during the worst situations. It won't be easy, we'll get sick-and-tired-of-being-sick-and-tired, get depressed, want to give up at times, but in the end, after we come out of that cocoon, we'll make it and be a better person because of what we went through. You see, the butterfly derives both it's sustenance and strength to fly away from it's cocoon condition through the laborious task of eating it's way out of the cocoon. We have to fall, crawl, and struggle so that we can learn, grow, and succeed. And having a lot of money isn't success. A well-off person who isn't happy and isn't fulfilling their purpose in life is trapped in a cocoon and may never transform into a butterfly.
In my case, as most of you know, I did 23 years in prison. Being in prison as an innocent man was my caterpillar-cocoon stages. All these rappers talk about being at the bottom. (Sigh) I was at the bottom of the bottom. I was as low as a person can get with the exception of being on Death Row and death itself. And when you're at the extreme bottom like I was, and I woke up on some days in a depressed state of mind that pushed me even lower, having a bad day, getting put on lock down for a stabbing or whatever, no mail at mail-call on that particular day, etc.......sometimes death seemed like the better option. I'm too strong-minded for that, believed there was a greater purpose in my future behind all of my struggles and pain, so I would shake off my temporary negative mindset and keep on crawling and surviving inside of my tiny cocoon. I would pray, verbalize outloud positive affirmations (i,e. "I'm better than this," "No weapon formed against me will prosper," "There's a purpose behind my pain," "Make Today Count Shawn. You have the same amount of minutes in a day as someone that is free"), I would psyche my mind out, tell myself that I was away at a quasi-University or an intense training center, where I could I learn anything I wanted to and become the man I wanted to, I hung positive phrases and quotes on my cell walls, I took trips and vacations through reading books, I enrolled in college, studied hard, earned two degrees, learned and taught myself so many things, including how to type, discovered gifts and talents about myself then I cultivated those gifts to stay busy and to keep my mind off of the time and my innocence, I channeled my pain through my writing, songs, and poetry, I wrote my innocence story and started a writing campaign to make more people aware of my innocence so that I could get the help I needed, I wrote to pen pals and total strangers, who became some of my closet friends still today and who did more for me than some of my own family, strangers-turned-friends who believed in me and shined a light of hope into my darkness, I did push-ups and more push-ups and more push-ups until I was doing 1,000 reps, doing push-ups, pouring with sweat and tears at the same time bc I was determined to not let the "system" defeat me and I was determined to leave prison a balanced and transformed man....I did whatever it took to keep me crawling, learning and growing inside of my cocoon until my day arrived for me to fly. There is a moth-butterfly in the tropical rain forest that remains in the caterpillar stage for 30 years before it becomes a butterfly. That was me. Crawling everyday, but still believing and living with a purpose. Once I clocked in close to 23 years and made parole and started counting down the days to my freedom for those last few months, guys would come up to me and inquire about my release status. "How many days you got left Shawn?" I would tell them, bro., I only have 27 days to live. I'll be dying in 27 days. Dying??? They would look at me crazy. Confused. (One of my favorite rap songs is "Dead and Gone" by Justin Timberlake and T.I.). Death gives birth to life. Out with the old and in with the new. Then I would go on to tell them I'm about to die and be a new man--a FREE man--with a new life in a new world, the freeworld. I'm about to fly away from this place--transformed--and fly as high, as far, and for as long as I can with every fiber of my grateful being.
I was released on November 30th and I've been flying ever since. I both admire and respect the butterfly. Think if you were told you only had a few weeks to live, or at the most, a year (like the butterfly), what would you do? My next question is why do you have to be put in a drastic situation like that to do what you want--or should--do in life. Smell the roses. Find your purpose. Do some living. You might just spot a butterfly while you're doing it. #GETTHEMOSTOUTOFLIFE #TRANSFORMATION