The Mission – Butterfly on a Wheel

It’s cynical yet romantic, with idioms and images that sound clichéd, but presented in such combinations that the song turns into a kind of kaleidoscope, fascinating while ordinary, a collection of contradictions.

The title comes from an Alexander Pope poem and refers to the use of excessive force to achieve something minor. The “wheel” means Catherine wheel, a torture device meant for breaking bones. Calling love something that breaks the wings of a butterfly sounds cynical, but feels somehow familiar to anyone who’s ever been disappointed. If one doesn’t think of the wheel as a torture device I guess it might be possible to see it as something positive too: love is a powerful emotion that smashes through our fears as if they were always very fragile. It is the knife that cuts through our preconceptions, the expectations of rejection, indifference and unkindness, so common in this world that genuine affection and caring is surprising, always transformative.

A butterfly on a torture device, the trembling, shivering human soul. Going through heartbreak and disappointment one might feel that love is something to be avoided because it made us vulnerable. But there’s another way to see it. Love only reveals the vulnerability that was always there. Two contrasting viewpoints: love is blindness, or love is clarity. Perception is always subjective, our theories of reality coloured by our emotions, unconscious fears and desires turning into rationalized arguments. I cannot say which would be correct, but I do believe life is more pleasant, social situations more stimulating and fulfilling, if you see love as clarity, something that reveals the true nature of things. Saying that no true essence exists may provide intellectual satisfaction, yet in ordinary life we always recourse to something more emotional to take the place of truth.

Also this idiom: “All is fair in love and war”. It sounds like a recipe for abusive relationships, stalking and harassing. Like many old sayings, from today’s perspective it seems completely wrong, and believing in its truthfulness only leads to sorrow. People have wildly different concepts of love, sometimes so different that they seem complete opposites. It may be gentleness and acceptance, but also obsessiveness relabeled as passion. And when the different conceptions clash, what was an expectation of safety in vulnerability turns into torture.

Regardless of the approach, love is something that makes us feel complete, or at least it’s a vision that promises completeness. It does not have to be a romantic partner who triggers it. Love is trust that makes us transcend our ego and direct our gentleness toward the world, whether it is toward humanity, our children, or something more abstract and vague.

All these colourful encounters, the small touches, the eternal springtime of a trusting disposition. I see your beauty in the grey light of an ordinary cloudy day. I see my own significance in a universe where a human being is a speck of dust, I reach out toward you. We smile. We greet. We thank each other for small favours, and for existing, for seeing and hearing. The small talk, the visit from a neighbour, the completeness of existence each moment despite the tendency to see imperfection, things to be corrected, silence to be achieved. And the happy greeting, the acknowledgement that this is the person you share your life with, choosing him or her time after time. Love, the healing balm, the attentiveness, the presence, the tenderness. If only we could always see each other like this.