The Price of Catching a Butterfly

After suffering from brain fever and forgetting all about my tickets, I finally saw Madama Butterfly.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it’s about a young Japanese woman who falls in love with an American, marries him, bears his child*, and then waits three years for him to return to Japan. 

Of course, he does return…with his new wife.  Oh, and he wants to take the child back to America, too.

Everyone in the show knows that Pinkerton will break Butterfly’s heart. 

Everyone, of course, except for her.

The singing of Cio Cio San was exquisitely heartbreaking, but the line that will stay with me from the show belongs to Pinkerton:


“I am seized by a wild desire to pursue her, even though I should crush her fragile wings in doing so.”


When we are children, we chase innocently after butterflies, blissfully unaware that we are likely doing permanent damage to the object of our desire.

When we are adults, we chase with our eyes wide open, yet wilfully blind to the repercussions of our actions.

The caught butterfly trembles almost as much as the hand that encloses around it.

If you hold onto it, it will die.

If you let it go, it will never fly again, not as it did before.


* As if the little guy who played the son (named Sorrow, of course) wasn’t adorable enough, he clearly had the hiccups during last night’s performance.   Watching his little shoulders go up and down while the adults sang on stage was hilarious.


12 Responses to “The Price of Catching a Butterfly”

  1. November 4, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    This gave me chills, lady. The good kind—the “holy shit, that was amazing” kind. 🙂

  2. November 4, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    “If you hold onto it, it will die.

    If you let it go, it will never fly again, not as it did before.”

    I agree with you. I just want to know…what do you do? Not chase in the first place?

  3. November 4, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Well, I *wasn’t* depressed…

  4. 7 f.B
    November 4, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    So we just shouldn’t chase butterflies, right? We should chase… something else; something that can regenerate; something whose wings aren’t in danger of being crushed?

    How the hell do you pick that person out of a crowd?

    • 8 shoeboxdweller
      November 4, 2009 at 9:55 pm

      See my answer to Liebchen, above. And let me know when the two of you collaborate on your first self-help book. I’ll be your agent.

  5. November 5, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    This is beautiful and poignant. A little sad, but also maybe something to rejoice. Everything we do matters, we are constantly in flux and always affecting, effecting, and being changed. Like waves, pulling and pushing each other and never staying the same.

  6. 11 Marie
    November 5, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Perfectly said. That is such a sad story, but sometimes we need to stop chasing, let it come to us. Well, only if it wants to.

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