Churchill loved butterflies. In many ways he was a hold over from the Victorian era and butterfly collecting was an obsession among Victorian naturalists and explorers. Most any kind of collecting was an obsession among the Victorians.
Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to his mother when he was thirteen and on holidays from school,
“I never have done work in my holidays and I will not begin now. It will be very good if this is not forced upon me. I am never at a loss for anything to do whilst I’m in the country, for I shall be occupied with “buttrerflying” all day.”
Butterflies are a fascinating life form. They are beautifully colored and fly on gossamer wings. They decorate the summer.
And they transform from meager earth-bound caterpillars. The caterpillar is quite a common creature and there is no indication that it will someday be reconfigured as a most marvelous creature.
That is the essence of the metaphor we latch on to. We aspire for similar transformation. We all hold out hope to go from our common prosaic quotidian form, to become a beautiful remarkable light winged dryad of the flowers.
I think this is what fascinated Churchill his entire life. And holding on to that example from nature, and by watch it and rehearsing it, he prepared himself for his transformative time.
Churchill was dismissed and obscured in the decade leading up to World War II and the looming existential crisis for Britain. When the time came, he transformed.
Or maybe he was already transformed and it took the crises for the rest of his country to recognize his stature.
He understood his worth, even as he expressed humility.
“We are all worms. But I do believe that I am a glow-worm.”
He held on to it and didn’t diminish as he resided in the wilderness.
Leadership isn’t just about communicating a vision and tasking people to carry it out. Its about preparation for those moments while living in obscurity.
Prepare with the expectation of transformation.
Benjamin Franklin was a similar of rising to the occasion late in life. He wrote his autobiography assuming most of his life was behind him before the events of the American Revolution. He was one of the main figures in that precipitous action and grand experiment.
At the time Churchill was announcing war on the axis powers, he was also planning his butterfly pavilion for his estate Chartwell. Kent. This was a beautiful and restorative distraction in the preparation for the hard days ahead. It was also a way to focus and meditate on one of nature’s profound lessons of hope and light.
In order to follow the course of your life, you must let it flow.
Keep the faith and carry on.