Lessons from the Great Emperor Moth

Do you know the story of the Great Emperor Moth?

Now I’m not sure what made me think of this story today.  Not only do these moths not live in North America but, now that I actually I think about it, I haven’t seen a moth in weeks.  Either way, this came to mind today.

Maybe it’s  No Rest for the Wicked’s pre-order going live on Amazon yesterday that brought it to mind.  Proof that all the pain and aggravation of getting to that point was worth it.  It could have been various other things going on in my life at the moment as well.

In the end it doesn’t matter what caused it.  What does matter is that I realized I hadn’t discussed one of my favorite stories on a blog about writing and, to be honest, I found that sinful.

Either way, onto the story of the Great Emperor Moth:

There was once a hunter who came across the cocoon of a great emperor moth in his travels through the forest. Not wanting to miss the inevitable emergence of the moth, he decided to monitor the cocoon daily. Day after day he would go back to check on the cocoon and, after waiting what seemed an eternity, the moth finally began to emerge from a small opening it made in the cocoon.

Progress was slow, as the moth struggled greatly to emerge from the far too small hole. After some time, its legs poked through the outer coverings, but then the moth seemed to give up on its efforts. Hours passed, and the hunter saw no progress. Worried and thinking the moth had given up, the hunter decided to help the moth out in its endeavor. Grabbing his hunting knife, he carefully cut the side of the cocoon, allowing the moth to emerge effortlessly. Yet the moth, rather than beautifully fly out of the cocoon, fell to the ground: its wings not developed and body engorged with fluid. Not being able to fly, the moth wallowed on the ground for a few days before it died.

What the gardener failed to realize is that the struggle that the moth goes through when emerging from its cocoon is vital to the development of the moth. By squeezing through the small opening of the cocoon, the moth forces fluid from its body into its wings, allowing the wings to develop into large, functional adult moth wings. Having been denied the struggle the moth was denied its chance to develop properly: a denial that unfortunately came at the expense of its life.

If you ask me, this moth is the O.G. Motivational Speaker of the world.

Granted, I’m sure the moths struggle has been exaggerated considering it’s clearly allegorical, but who cares?

I’ve seen these things emerge from the chrysalis, and it’s brutal to watch.  The hole is far too small for its bloated body to fit through.  Those moths work harder just to survive than most people do at their jobs.

Emerging Emperor Moth

You just wait until my union rep hears about this….

To be honest, I’m exhausted just watching the poor thing.

While the human life cycle is really nothing like that of the Great Emperor Moth, the message is clear.

Your Suffering Makes You Who You Are!

That’s right.  All those terrible things that happened to you, all those insurmountable obstacles in your way.

They made you, you.

It’s a weird mix of scary/crazy/amazing that we really have so little control over our own development.

I mean yeah, while we choose what we do and how we react to situations, we don’t get to choose all of those situations, especially if they happened in our childhood.  Half the pain and aggravation in some children’s lives is being dragged through their parents’.

Regardless of that, it’s still kind of comforting to me.  The idea that all the pain and aggravation is worth it.  That yes, while the situations you’ve lived through weren’t ideal, that there’s a purpose behind them.

Depending on how spiritual you are, you could say that you needed to have those experiences.  That they occurred to teach you something important that you were lacking.  If that doesn’t float your boat at all, you could just shrug benignly and say, “life’s rough.”

I always had a hard time with that though, the benign shrugging.

It was never my style.

I choose to believe the pain is for a reason, even though that reason will never be something we clearly understand.

And with that I leave you.  I’ve included a video showing the entire life cycle of the Great Emperor Moth, a.k.a. Saturnia pyri.  I hope you enjoy!

So what do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Think I’m nuts?  Whatever you do think please leave those thoughts in the comments below.


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