top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples

Metamorphosis | August 21, 2022 by Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake

. . . strong wind does not last all morning

Sudden rain does not last all day

What makes this so?

– a portion of chapter 23, Tao Te Ching

While ruminating over today’s message focusing on metamorphosis, I stepped outside through my front door. I was swept up in awe as a majestic monarch butterfly graced my presence. So mesmerized by this “coincidence,” I did not think of capturing its beauty in a photograph. Later as it disappeared down the driveway into the garage area, I pulled out my iPhone hoping to take a picture or even perhaps a video. But it seemed to have flown out of the territory of my home. From my back minutes later, it reappeared. I pulled out my iPhone again but with no success. How elusive it was! How free, flowing with the wind, flowing with and within the Dao.

From my teenage years I have been concerned about and involved in social change. Growing up in a segregated community and society, I began early my search for authentic community across the color line. That authenticity would of necessity include a transformed societal reality that embraced and celebrated everyone, where there was no oppression against any classification of human being. This deep stirring within began during my senior year in high school. Later, I would resonate wholly with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s depiction of this reality as beloved community and even later Dr. Howard Thurman’s search for common ground. In essence they were both heralding the idea of metamorphosis – derived from the Greek word meta, to change, and morphé, form. Metamorphosis is the process of changing form.

I have struggled and been open in many ways to experience or at least to glimpse this nation transformed, promoting peace, and living with justice, compassion, sustainable and comfortable livelihood for all.

One of the more obvious physical examples of metamorphosis is a caterpillar being transformed into a butterfly. The caterpillar and butterfly are not in opposition. Rather they are mutually necessary to fulfill their innate natures and, in the process, continue the procreative process. The chrysalis is their time of working together, the giving of the caterpillar and the acceptance of the butterfly. Before this, the caterpillar must shed its skin, that which has been an element of its existence, covering it and providing security for a time. If the caterpillar does not give this up – what it has been – it will betray its destiny and the butterfly – the new – cannot be born. The caterpillar will die unfulfilled, depriving it of participating in the newness, the enlarged vistas of springtime. The butterfly will not be born to meet the demands of spring, to draw nectar, to pollinate the flowers, to initiate the life cycle again.

I continue to live the search for common ground that would transform societal oppression into Beloved Community. The need to venture into common ground is strong, especially given our current situation and time.

One aspect of metamorphosis that speaks deeply to me is that of patience. There is an inward journey that must occur for metamorphosis. I have been and currently am a social activist. Social activism and the inward journey must cohere, must be in balance. They are interrelated to each other, yin and yang.

Caterpillar and butterfly are participants in the same cosmic order.

The physical has much to teach us on a spiritual and societal basis. All social transformation for the betterment of society has come from metamorphosis: a change of consciousness in the way of engaging The Way, The Dao, mutuality in the flow and flexibility of life.

Let’s revisit the wisdom in our opening scripture:

. . . strong wind does not last all morning

Sudden rain does not last all day

What makes this so?

Reflecting on this, I remembered my experience at Alex Haley farm earlier this summer. The first day gentle rain visited Clinton, TN. Shortly after its beginning, it seemed that even this had lifted, leaving the place with something more like mist. Shortly thereafter, monsoon type rain really got the attention of those gathered, forcing changes of agendas. However, it did not last all day.

Derek Lin, Daoist scholar and author, posted this story titled, The Sad Lady

Once upon a time in ancient China, there was a sage widely regarded for his wisdom. One day, he was passing by a village when it began to rain. He went into the village to seek shelter, and that’s when he saw the old woman.

She seemed very sad, slumped in a corner, sobbing uncontrollably, but other villagers seemed to pay no attention. This seemed odd to the sage, so he asked about her. They told him that she was known throughout the village as the “Sad Lady” because she was always crying.

Out of compassion, the sage approached her and asked what was wrong. She said: “Master, I am sad because of my older son. He has a store selling fans. I worry about him because when it rains, no one visits his store, so his business suffers. I can’t help feeling sad when I think about that.”

“Bad weather never lasts,” the sage pointed out. “Soon the sun will come out again. Everything will be alright.”

This seemed to make her even sadder. She wailed: “No, Master! My younger son sells umbrellas. When it is sunny, he gets no business at all. I can’t help feeling even worse when I think about that.”

“I see,” the sage thought about this for a moment. “I would like to take a look at his umbrella shop. Can you take me there?”

It was raining heavily when they got to the younger son’s store. Many travelers on the road were caught unprepared, so they came into the store to purchase an umbrella before continuing on their way. The more it rained, the more people came through the door. The old woman saw her son very busy, taking care of one customer after another. His business was doing well. Slowly, a smile broke through her tears.

Later, when the sun came out, the sage asked her to take him to the older son’s store. By the time they got there, there were quite a few customers around. It was turning into a hot day, so people wanted to fan themselves to keep cool. The older son was serving more customers than he could handle. The old woman saw that his business was also doing well. Now she was in a great mood.

The sage said to her: “When it was raining earlier today, your older son had very little business, but your younger son’s business thrived. Now, when it’s sunny like this, people are not interested in buying umbrellas, but they definitely want fans, as you can see. So, no matter what the weather happens to be, just think about the son that is doing well, and you will no longer feel so sad.”

The old woman took the sage’s instructions to heart and changed her thinking. Soon, she went from someone who was often in tears, to someone who was constantly smiling and laughing. Throughout the village, people began calling her by her new nickname: “Happy Lady.

Lin suggests that the message of the story is that the woman needed to redirect her focus, her perspective, her consciousness, to move from seeing the negative to embracing the positive regardless of what may be happening at any moment. The issues facing us in this nation and global interconnection can be depressing, incapacitating us; and consequently, fueling the continuation of the oppression. Regardless of how strong the winds or heavy the rain, they do not last always. Our ancestors sang: “Trouble Don’t Last Always!” That is a gift from them. In the bowels of slavery, they could sing that line of song! What an amazing vaccination against such a crippling disease.

Metamorphosis rested within them. They could not change their past. They could, however, become what they needed to become for their future. They also sang: Walk Together Children Don’t You Get Weary. There’s A Great Camp Meeting in The Promised Land. They had already been transformed as a group, as a community. The promised land already was part of their reality. They were empowered with vistas far beyond the troubles of their world.

So, why should we feel discouraged. We’ve been here before. We transformed the nation as we were ourselves transformed.

Mahatma Gandhi said:

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it – always.”

We will continue with the theme of metamorphosis the next time I write.

18 views0 comments


bottom of page