On becoming a nutritive soup

by erika

Hi Friends,

Here is the quote and the notes that I riffed off yesterday in my first opening retreat as Chair. Thank you, Jen Bechtel, for this beautiful thought about butterflies.

“Caterpillars chew their way through ecosystems leaving a path of destruction as they get fatter and fatter. When they finally fall asleep and a chrysalis forms around them, tiny new imaginal cells, as biologists call them, begin to take form within their bodies. The caterpillar’s immune system fights these new cells as though they were foreign intruders, and only when they crop up in greater numbers and link themselves together are they strong enough to survive. Then the caterpillar’s immune system fails and its body dissolves into a nutritive soup which the new cells recycle into their developing butterfly.

The caterpillar is a necessary stage but becomes unsustainable once its job is done. There is no point in being angry with it and there is no need to worry about defeating it. The task is to focus on building the butterfly, the success of which depends on powerful positive and creative efforts in all aspects of society and alliances built among those engaged in them.”
― Elisabet Sahtouris


Dear Friends,

We are the champions of creative efforts, especially in the face of change. We are masters (or earning them) in the art of becoming butterflies.

While so much is shifting here on our campus and in the world, we as artist and art-makers, can stay focused on building the butterfly. We have rehearsed these moments of transformation, we have mobilized our alliances in order to recycle our energies to become a bright, winged thing.  I love that the cells that start the metamorphosis of the chrysalis are called imaginal cells—not that they are imaginary, but that they are tiny little planets of imagination. When these imaginal cells link together, when our imaginations are joined, we are strong enough to survive.

This summer was not a quiet one on campus, we have a new Dean, Jim White, who, though put into action through a very bumpy process, is a kind and interdisciplinerary leader and really good human. We have a new and poetess Associate Dean, Ruth Ellen Kocher, you all have a new chair, and it is a new year—for some of you a new home, a new role, a new teaching assignment.  So much change, so much good nutritive soup—bowls full, sip from the cup full, no time for spoon-full change!  It is tempting to get grouchy, conspiratorial, mistrustful during these shifts—but I want to encourage all of us to stay play-full, to help choreograph our futures here on campus and on this earth. Thanks to the 14 years of leadership from our dear Bud Coleman, and to the diligent work of all of you, we are seen as movers, shakers, and leaders on this campus. We are the trouble-makers—we make good trouble, good soup, from which to develop. There is no point in being angry (though sometimes we can’t help it) as we move forward with change—but we should definitely not be complacent. What we do in these moments where possibility resides will define our wingspan for years to come. I am so excited to be your advocate and comrade in all of this.

Last week the chancellor spoke up, more quickly than usual—which I loved—about the violence and discord in VA, urging us to all stay “student and community” centered:

“In times like these I want us all to remember who we are and what we stand for, as reflected by our Colorado Creed, and to welcome back our students with that in mind when you are helping them find a residence hall, unload their cars as they move in or make their way to classes.

  • We act with honor, integrity and accountability in interactions with each other.
  • We respect the rights of others and accept our differences.
  • We contribute to the greater good of this community.”

This community is our butterfly.

He also shared this powerful document that is making its way around the country, signed by student body presidents:

“As Student Body Presidents across the United States , we are deeply saddened by the events that have occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia. We are united with the students of the University of Virginia, as what affects one of our campuses affects us all. College campuses are spaces that students should be able to call home, not places of violence, hate, and racism. Students should always feel welcome and safe at our incredible higher education institutions, never having to fear for their personal well-being. As the voice of our students, we collectively call on one another to speak up in the face of injustice, as silence reduces us to bystanders in oppression. This is a statement to not only support the Student Body at the University of Virginia but to make clear our advocacy for the victimized and marginalized students on all our campuses. We will continue to support students and universities in their peaceful resistance to violence, racism, white supremacy, bigotry, and acts of terrorism on our own campuses and beyond.”

As we move into the year, let’s remember this:

The Golden rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated

and more importantly

The Platinum Rule: Treat others as they would like to be treated

We are soup.

Soup is good.


All my best,