Spiritually speaking, we are all born caterpillars with butterfly potential.
The problem in our generation is that there are tons of other caterpillars going around saying things like:
- "Yes, it's true that in previous generations, caterpillars could become butterflies, but nishtaneh hateva (nature has changed) and nowadays, we can't."
- "Only truly great caterpillars can become butterflies."
- "Metamorphosing into a butterfly occurred in earlier times, but such a thing doesn't really apply to our generation."
And so on.
On the other side of things, you have caterpillars aware of the butterfly potential and even butterflies telling other caterpillars that you need to do exactly what they're doing (or have done) in order to become a butterfly even though they cannot know what you specifically need or which specific butterfly you're supposed to become.
For example, one species of caterpillar (like the Anise Swallowtail) can digest plants of a variety of species, like rue, fennel, carrot, and parsley. Yet another caterpillar type (the Monarch) can only digest plants of milkweed.
If either is given the plant incompatible with their system, they either won't eat it (because they can't) and thus not get the sustenance they need to produce a cocoon, or they'll eat it and die.
So if you have an Anise Swallowtail caterpillar pressuring a Monarch, "C'mon, you need to eat some of this wonderful rue! I'm doing it and look at me, look at how I'm gaining weight and energy toward my future metamorphosis!" -- it will damage or kill the Monarch caterpillar.
Furthermore, the cocoon process is also different among different species. For example, some species produce the well-known white silk cocoon while others shed a soft outer lay of skin to reveal a new hard layer of shiny gold called a chrysalis, and the metamorphosis takes place within the chrysalis. But even within the cocooning type, the cocoons display a wide variety of soft white, tough brown, and more.
As you can see in the images below, the Common Crow butterfly veered off from the conventional white cocoon route and turned out just fine -- just as he is supposed to.
Following his lead when it's not for you can prevent you from ever becoming a butterfly. (And of course, he'll blame you for somehow not following his advice exactly right, even if you actually followed it to the letter.)
Other caterpillars and butterflies can't know how much you need to eat of a certain plant or how long you need to cocoon yourself, nor how you personally need to break out of your cocoon.
Everyone means well, but listening to them can mess you up.
So what can well-meaning caterpillars and butterflies do?
How to Talk to a Caterpillar
Caterpillars must be told that they are meant to be much more than a mere caterpillar.
All the plant-gnawing serves a greater purpose; it's not just for daily survival. It provides the sustenance and material needed to eventually enter the cocoon stage, which is the only way to reach butterfly potential.
You can help your Monarch friend find the milkweed he so desperately needs, even though you, a Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly, are doing great with a violets-only diet.
Balance and humility are necessary.
You know that caterpillars can become butterflies.
You know that caterpillars need to eat a lot in order to get to the cocoon stage.
And you also know that their nourishment needs to come from plants (and with some species, certain insects too), and not ham sandwiches or lobster pie or oysters.
But unless you're a great tzaddik who is able to discern what each individual caterpillar specifically needs, you can't really tell a caterpillar more than the basics.
But the basics, every caterpillar should know: You're meant to become a butterfly!
You have it within you.