THE BUTTERFLY AND THE MOTH
Once a butterfly fell in love with a moth. Why that happened was a mystery. The butterfly was like the coming of spring. April played in its wings, and their soft flutter made the air glow. When it lighted a moment on a blade of grass or a twig, that place, however small, rivaled rainbows. The moth had none of this magic. It faltered through life as if its wings were an accident. And this accident the moth took as a palpable affront. It was a low trick of nature that it found itself with ungainly wings, quite apart from the added insult of its drab, puffy bulk. Nor was the moth merely awkward physically. It seemed to be getting in its own way all the time emotionally as well. Who else had to endure the mortifications it did every day, the moth groaned? Life was nothing more than a long bad joke, and the moth was the constant butt of it. The whole exercise appeared designed solely to deny the moth any dignity it might aim for. The butterfly recognized the moth’s pained discontent, but loved it all the more for that. Perhaps the moth’s bitterness at having been slighted by life was the very thing that proved irresistible. Even when the moth’s frustrations caused it to turn on the butterfly, as if blaming it for a magnificence that put the moth itself in a worse light by comparison, the butterfly’s love never wavered. At such times, it would fold close its splendor to avoid upsetting the moth any more or else quiet the lilting grace of its flight. It wasn’t that the moth meant to hurt the butterfly. And it wasn’t that the butterfly didn’t feel hurt, sometimes terribly hurt. The moth saw the pain it caused but couldn’t help itself. While the butterfly saw how cruelly love was repaid but also couldn’t help itself. Day after day, the moth blundered from one bush to another, cursing its lot, while the butterfly followed lovingly behind, refusing to use its own luminous wings to fly away. It was truly a mystery. In another version of this story, it was the moth that fell in love with the butterfly and tried in every way to be near the object of its desire. This devotion was a torment, the moth often acknowledged sadly, for in the presence of the butterfly, it was convinced it must appear a hundred times more ugly than if it simply kept to itself and abandoned its love. All of the misgivings it had, the dull heaviness it felt in its heart whenever it compared itself to the butterfly, might have been expected to dissuade the moth from its suit. How could it ever be worthy of a life together with this extraordinary being? Wasn’t the desire itself a sign of hopeless delusion that could only lead to disaster? The moth half feared that if it ever realized its dreams and won the butterfly’s love, it might not survive that moment of bliss. The butterfly, for its part, was barely aware of the moth’s existence. The latter’s attempts to call attention to itself while at the same time trying desperately to hide its own shortcomings appeared to the butterfly as merely a puzzling blur in the air, a bothersome distraction. That the blur might be the sole expression an awkward constancy could manage never crossed its mind. While helpless before the burning marvel of its love, the moth continued to circle ever closer and closer. This second version of the story was a mystery, too.
Copyright © 2003-2004, revised 2008, by Geoffrey Grosshans