The butterfly tattoo

September 16, 2010 at 4:36 pm (Uncategorized)

“For an all-expense paid, one-week vacation anywhere in the world, would you be willing to kill a beautiful butterfly by pulling off its wings?

What about stepping on a cockroach?”

This question ran through my mind in a dream last night for no apparent reason. Literally, it just passed through like words on a teleprompter.  I woke up this morning and had to dig out the wee little book in which I first read this interesting question.  The Book of Questions was written by Gregory Stock – it’s pretty interesting to flip through over a few cups of espresso, with a friend or by yourself (it depends on whether you want a friendly debate, or just a few quiet moments to look deep inside your own mind).

Dr. Stock elaborates on this with a few follow-up questions, such as “Why does a beautiful creature merit more compassion than an ugly one? Does it damage us psychologically when we destroy something we find beautiful?”

On a more light-hearted note, this all reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where Jerry has such a drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend, they discuss how she can get away with absolutely anything – she gets him and his buddies any table in any packed restaurant, she even gets Jerry out of an insane speeding ticket, as he laughs it up in the driver’s seat, knowing she will be able to smooth things over in less than two sentences.  Now, I happen to think that Seinfeld is the most clever sitcom ever written and have seen EVERY episode, and this is one of my favorites.  It’s hilarious – and so true in regard to how society feels about appearances.


Do you have more empathy and patience for beautiful things, and more importantly, for beautiful people, than those who are less attractive?  The butterfly vs. cockroach example is pretty simple to consider.  I recall how a group of us sat very still on a houseboat in Shuswap as a huge, colorful butterfly floated past, holding our breath in hopes that it would land near one of us.  I wanted to be closer to it, to examine it’s colorful wings and natural beauty.  Flashback to a few years ago in NYC: my roommate and I would drop a phonebook on a gigantic, wriggling cockroach, step on it through the book, and then wait a few days to peel it back and throw out the whole book after it had been contaminated with the remains of such a vile creature.

But they are both insects.  I felt it was my obligation to kill something so ugly and dirty (okay, cockroaches are dirty and disgusting.  However, I also feel this way about spiders, ants, beetles, etc)… but I hold my breath so that I don’t disturb the path of a delicate butterfly.   But they are both basically the same species…

Do you treat people this way, too?  Will you tip your bartender a significant amount more if he/she is very attractive?  Of course, sexual attraction is hard-wired, and we can not help who we are attracted to.  But anything sexual aside, do you treat beautiful people better than those whom you find less attractive?  Is it okay for a strange man to put his arm around your shoulder  if he’s a Cristiano Ronaldo look-alike?  What if his slightly overweight, shorter friend with the crooked teeth (and nice personality) acted the same way?  If a beautiful woman asked to borrow your phone to call a friend for a ride home, would you lend it to her faster than if a less beautiful woman asked you for the same favour?  Our society places so much importance on appearances (especially for women), more so than intelligence, creativity, financial success, and compassion, along with many other valuable qualities.  No wonder we judge and treat people based on this factor alone, and feel the need to work endlessly on our looks so that we may be treated more kindly by all.  Would you go out of your way to lend a hand to an attractive person – including jump starting his/her car, helping them up after falling down in public, and/or holding the door open? 

Are you more patient with an attractive person when teaching or explaining something to him/her? Are you more forgiving of his/her mistakes?

 I don’t know why this entered my unconscious mind last night, but everything happens for a reason. With the exception of crawling creatures that invade my home… I hope that I treat them all the same (human or insect or other).  And still, I will try to capture them (the insects) in a glass – the terrifying catch-and-release! 

I hope we all strive to look a bit closer in our everyday interactions.  The cockroachs have just as much right to life and liberty as the butterflies.


1 Comment

  1. Philippe said,

    If you are good-looking, life is easier. It’s just the way it is.

    Who said life is fair.

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