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Death and The Existential Caterpillar

Chrysalis is the term for the caterpillar when it’s in the cocoon transforming into a butterfly.

The caterpillar literally breaks down and decomposes into a clear goo like substance before the cells can begin to form a new body and brain.

Another term used for the chrysalis stage is disambiguation. When everything becomes clear.

The term is a double entendre, because many of us believe things will become clear when we


If we are buried our bodies will break down over time, the same as in the initial stage in

chrysalis. If we are cremated, this stage is completed rapidly through flame. Whether we are

feeding the animals, insects or plants in the form of ash or flesh, we will transform.

I have considered the psychological and physical aspects of what happens to us when we die. In times when I have had to cope with someone I loved passing away, the most upsetting

thoughts I have had are:

How can they just be nothing now?

How is it possible to disintegrate from a living breathing being?

How can their powerful, creative brain; full of amazing thoughts and ideas just stop?

The more time I have spent thinking these thoughts rationally, the more comfortable I become

with death. I only have some ideas about what happens when we die. What we, the living see

and experience, is fear and pain.

If my human brain was in a caterpillars’ body, and I knew I was wrapping myself up like a

mummy in preparation to disintegrate into the pupa stage, I would be terrified. It must be

painful to have its entire body break down when in the cocoon. The caterpillar operates on

instinct and transforms because it must. I don’t know whether or not they experience fear.

Medical science tells us the human brain ceases to function after 3 minutes of no circulation. If

we had memory after death, we would have no place to store it once the body broke down.

That does not mean that every trace of that person is gone.

We are all experiencing the existence of other people and interacting with the feelings of those around us. Every interaction and every person we meet affects who we are. The amazing thing about death is it makes us realise the interaction is finite. Our brain flags and categorises our lives together. Those experiences become even more valuable once we realise they can no longer be replicated.

Eventually the name of everyone will be forgotten, but we will remember the important

information which changed us and how we changed others with it. Nobody remembers the

name of the person who invented the wheel, which was probably the most important invention ever created.

It doesn’t matter if you are the most amazing famous person in the world, or an unknown

tyrant. Everyone makes a lasting impression. I have been privy to some amazing funerals where people have come together to share the deceased’s impact on their lives. I often don’t know these people personally, but it is mind blowing to understand the effect they had on hundreds of people in that room and the effect which those hundreds had on others.

If we step outside of our bubble and look at the broad scope, the people we love who have died are not gone. They have literally transformed into a community with their brain. They are

contributing to an ecosystem with their bodies and that means that after disambiguation or

chrysalis, I can become a million butterflies rather than just one and that is amazing.

Edited by Amy Setka

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