I was walking back home from campus one day, when about halfway during my trek I noticed an unusual sight, a large butterfly lying prostate on the sidewalk. It was a beautiful specimen; it had a large abdomen and thorax complimented by two huge, black wings dotted symmetrically by three blue spots. It was not flying.
No, it was fluttering weakly on the ground. One of it’s two wings had a clean diagonal cut in it. I stopped and watched it for a while, thinking that maybe it was confused or perhaps mistakenly spotted a source of food on the ground, but after twenty seconds or so it became apparent that something was seriously wrong with this butterfly.
“This butterfly is dying. It is suffering,” thought myself. My first reaction was to stomp on it and end it’s pain. I thought for a moment and decided that first I should attempt to move the butterfly onto some grass. Perhaps it would recover if introduced to something resembling nature. I can only guess that watching too much television will induce this type of thinking. Needless to say, after my gently prodding the butterfly onto the grass, it flapped briefly in vain and then lied (layed?) still.
At this point, I knew a decision had to be made. To stomp or not to stomp, that was the question. To some this question might be simple, but in my mind the gears were cranking and all sorts of meddlesome thoughts rose to the surface, like an itch that cant be scratched. Yes, the butterfly was in pain, but just as in humans, surely this butterflies life was sacred. Scoff you may, but being raised Catholic is no small potatoes. That’s silly, thought I, clearly insects are not humans and thus the same rules dont apply. It’s suffering, so kill it and put it out of its misery already!
At this point, the small part of my brain that concerns itself with mundane things expressed a concern. Surely smashing a bug this size will leave a sizable amount of goo on your shoes! Gasp! That’s true… and from there other thoughts popped up. For starters, I am no expert on butterly etymology. How am I to know if this butterfly is truly dying or not? Upon closer inspection of the wings, I found that what I thought was a cut was actually a gap. It had four wings, not two! Thus, I hadd no visible explanation as to the butterflies apparent downward spiral. I didn’t even know if this butterfly was dying or merely resting. I freely admitted my ignorance, yet my gut held fast to the premise that this butterfly was pining for the fjords.
All the while, fellow college students walked past me. My neurons firing nonstop, I was in a quandary over what to do. My dualistic nature paired with my uncertainty had produced a quandary. Should I kill it and end its pain, or does it have a right to life? Is it suffering or merely resting? Do I want a huge sticky mess on my shoe? Ooooooh, what shall I do!? Several people passed by without even noticing me.
A bus-stop was a mere ten feet away, so after a few minutes a couple stopped b y. Still unsure of my tentative decision to let it be, I decided to ask for advice from this pair of fellow college students. “Hey, did you see that butterfly over there?” I asked, in an awkward attempt to break the ice. “No,why dont you put it in an exhibit or something,” they curtly replied. Those troglodytes! Like a rock pitched into a lake of glass, the moment was ruined. I had no time to wait for the shards to receed, so with one last glance I gazed towards the butterfly and walked away.
I thought heavily about this encounter during the remaining part of the day. What really stuck in my mind was that, if I could get so worked up about the decision to end the life of a butterfly, then how much more so is the decision to end the life of a suffering person. There are questions in this world that have no easy answer. While I was gazing at a butterfly, after I prodded it and touched its velvety wings, the sheer wonder of this world enveloped me.
I am probably unclear, and for that I apologize. I wanted to share this experience with you and see what you all think. Goodnight