Butterfly People

Posted: May 5, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Beth Pike has created a masterpiece in her documentary, Deadline in Disaster, an in-depth portrayal of the events surrounding the Joplin tornado, especially the news coverage provided by staff of the local newspaper, The Joplin Globe. The film premiered in Columbia on May 3 and included conversation with the Globe reporters.

During the Q&A time participants raised the question of the Butterfly People. These conversations referred to the reports and rumors of angelic beings who sheltered and directed people in the midst of the storm. One reporter shared that he wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t heard the phenomenon cited by so many people. Those mentions were often not first hand. But there were first hand accounts.

Joplin Butterfly Mural

The mural that appeared in Joplin the following September keyed off of the butterfly theme, both in the the symbolism of rebirth and with indirect reference to the Butterfly People.

What does one make of such reports? To begin with me might listen to the voices of skeptics, perspectives that are most certainly understandable.

Psychiatrists working with survivors referred to the human need for a security or safety figure, a projection of the parent figure, a hope that there is something benevolent looking out for us. Angels are the personification of our deep wish for protection.

The agnostics among us, those who simply claim to not know, reflect a more measured view. The Butterfly People are perhaps representations of benevolent forces we do not understand, personifications of the good, but not to be taken literally. One never knows what presence is at work and how. To describe it in terms of a butterfly, such a beautiful being in the midst of ugliness, is hopeful and touching.

Most surely the stories of the Butterfly People went viral, traveling the Joplin grapevine at the speed of light. They moved from person to person, person to groups, groups to the whole consciousness. Most of those were second hand reports. Though first hand stories, especially from children, were most persuasive. The Butterfly People story especially made the church circuit and was told in public worship and small groups.

What do I make of it? That’s a good question without a good answer. I’ll take a stab.

First of all, my faith doesn’t depend on external manifestations such as this. I believe, trust, and act accordingly with or without that kind of evidence.

Second, visual representations of invisible powers are just that; representations. They can be real without being literal. But a butterfly image, even classic angelic representation, is as good as any. It’s probably symbolic in content.

Third, anything is possible. Just because phenomena don’t conform to my limited worldview doesn’t mean they don’t happen. In fact, my belief about the possibility of certain things might allow me to see or keep me from seeing.

Fourth, modern physics illuminates religious claims of this sort. Newtonian physics didn’t have room for the invisible beneath the surface of the visible. The new physics does – in spades. There is a semi-permeable membrane between this level of reality and others. That we might be connected to them – especially in turbulent times – seems more likely than before.

Fifth, my skepticism suspects that wishful thinking is often the cause of the constructs we assemble. This tempers my view of such claims. But I also have personal stories from my own family that confound my skepticism. Irrational stories of appearance litter the pathway of our family history album.

Sixth, I really don’t know.

Seventh, why not? Stranger things have happened.

  1. Audie says:

    Even Albert Einstein suggested that there may be as many as 8 dimensions. Perhaps we all wish to be more in touch with the Butterfly dimension.

  2. Jane says:

    For me, they are the sometimes nameless persons that come to you when no one else knows to do so..often indescribable within hours of the event that brought them. But oh so powerful. Their time with you is short and intense…and then they drift away on the wind that brought them…

  3. T. Rob Brown says:

    Actually, dimensions are measurements of space-time… what some of you are referring to are parallel realities or alternate realities (which were, at one time, called parallel dimensions but that terminology was incorrect). Dimensions are length, height, depth, time, and others that only quantum physicists understand. We live simultaneously in four dimensions but only perceive the fourth (time) in relation to the present, the past, or guessing at the future. We are three-dimensional beings, for the most part.

    It is theorized by speculative fiction (also called science fiction) and physicists that there are an infinite number of parallel realities just as our own universe (or reality) is infinite. TV shows such as Quantum Leap, Sliders, Farscape, and many others have touched upon this concept in various ways. Even time travel is a form of parallel reality — since many scientists theorize that if someone were able to go back in time, they would create (with each change they make) a parallel universe where only that change (and its results) are different than the universe they originated from. Most likely, such a journey (if even possible) would be a one-way trip.

    Ironically, chaos theory of quantum physics tells us that if a butterfly were to beat its wings in Asia, it could result in a hurricane in another part of the world. Weather patterns, by their very nature, are shrouded in chaos with nearly no order — which makes predicting them very difficult. A small change in a weather pattern could, in time, transform into something much larger.

    We can theorize all day, but there is no way to know for certain without irrefutable truth. So, that’s where faith comes in. Believe what you know in your heart.

    Myself, I hadn’t heard anyone talk about Butterfly People until the question was asked at the documentary’s screening. Since, I’ve researched it a lot and it is quite intriguing. I would love to learn more. I approach things from a very analytical point of view, yet I am not without faith.

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