Just the other day, as I was browsing the net, I stumbled upon one of my favorite readings in college, Trina Paulus’ Hope for the Flowers. That 47-year old allegorical book, talks about two caterpillars who, after being drawn into joining a senseless horde of caterpillars stepping over each other in a “caterpillar pillar” that headed straight up to nowhere, finally discover that the frantic race to reach the top had actually all been for nothing, as their destiny meant being transformed into butterflies in the end.
I get it, the ending may both be corny and mushy to some, appealing only to hippie-sensitive sides, but back then and even up till now, the book’s depiction of what others call a rat race, has never been a more accurate picture of our hectic present.
At the mall this weekend, during the height of the Araw ng Dabaw celebrations, the lingering image of that caterpillar pillar has come back to me.
A mass of humanity up and down escalators equate squarely with that squirming pillar straight up to who-knows-where. The madding crowd, individuals with a purpose, every man with a plan, poised in one direction, icy eyes out front and steps almost in cadence. One, two, three, four, five. Is there time to stop and smell the flowers? Hi ho silver away, there are no flowers to be smelled today. G2G.
Another image, the scene at one of the city’s bus stops shows a long line of would-be riders waiting patiently. As the bus scheme had only been implemented less than a month ago, the query by each who joined the line would be the same. “Is this the bus queue for Skyline?” Problem was, nobody there knew when the bus would arrive, and despite this uncertainty and the possibility of long night wait, the caterpillar line still grew and extended farther.
Like in the book, will we all turn up to be butterflies then? Surely, we do not deserve to be compared to a mere dot in a crowd of thousands, and we are definitely better than a dot’s claim to mediocrity.
While others may argue that this analogy is flawed in the sense that each person is unique even in a group, then the challenge would be to veer away from being faceless and to shine and prove it.
Be that butterfly, and if the real world were represented as the collective flowers in the book, hope would not be too far away after all.