Butterflies and Tornadoes

The snow day, and subsequent cancellations of meetings, transportation, etc, got me thinking about circumstance.  Circumstance got me thinking about the Butterfly Effect (no, not the Ashton Kutcher movie though the concept was used).  The Butterfly Effect is part of the Chaos Theory that says the flapping of a butterfly can later cause a tornado somewhere else.  Moreover, a big effect from a small input.  Mostly, its associated with weather and is precisely defined as, “The flapping of a single butterfly’s wing today produces a tiny change in the state of the atmosphere. Over a period of time, what the atmosphere actually does diverges from what it would have done. So, in a month’s time, a tornado that would have devastated the Indonesian coast doesn’t happen. Or maybe one that wasn’t going to happen, does.” (Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos, pg. 141)

In a chaotic system, small differences could bring unsuspecting results.  We can pretty much apply this to many choices, circumstances and accidents, depending upon what you believe about ‘accidents.’  I won’t even get into that in this post.  Let’s start with choices, which is the most powerful right we have.  Rarely, does a choice only affect the one making the choice which is why I’ll never forget what a friend answered when I asked him how he knew he was a grown up?

“I started making good decisions.”

It took a while to fully understand what his answer meant, but now I do.  Good decisions can vary from person to person too and yet again that depends on what they believe about circumstance, accidents, and all the other things I won’t get into right now.   Imagine, which I’m sure you have already in life, a choice you could change?  One that comes to mind, personally, is the weekend my brother went missing.  He called me relentlessly, and I ignored it relentlessly.  A huge mistake.  It’s easy to stumble into regret and get stuck tramping through the slush, but I come from the “no regrets” school of thought, so despite my knowing the outcome (my brother dies) at this point I’ve accepted that my choice was where I was at that particular moment in my life.  I can’t regret that and had I answered I’d probably have had an entirely different last conversation with my brother. This is perhaps a bad example, but what I’m trying to get at is it is within these choices that we learn the most about ourselves.  It is within the loss of my brother that I learned compassion, about karma, and the most about who I was and what I wanted to be my legacy.  I think my brother taught a lot of people the same building blocks in life.

At any moment I can deliberately and consciously introduce something new into my life, make a small change, and the effects could be substantial.  Whilst the Chaos may still continue, the subtle beauty of the flutter is extraordinary.


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