We have all pretty much heard the story of how there is a butterfly in Asia that flaps its wings and sets off a series of events that leads to a tornado in Texas. At first glance we look at it and smile, saying there is no way that could possibly happen. Yet, upon closer examination, we find that it could happen, and that we take part in similar events on a daily basis.
It’s called the butterfly effect, and comes from something called Chaos theory. In the hollywood version of Chaos theory, George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, changes the fate of his town when he wishes he had never been born. When good old George gets his wish, he sees how his not being born changes the whole makeup of the town and its people, and how his simple life brought meaning to so many other lives. Even those he did not know. In chaos theory, a small change in a system—like the flap of a distant butterfly’s wing—can dramatically change the system … leading to a tornado in Texas.
The whole idea sounds far-fetched, but mathematicians insist that it is real,and upon closer examination you can see how it works in a real life situation
So what is chaos theory anyway… I hear a number of you ask…… What the heck is this guy talking about.
Well, in its simplest terms it means that pretty much everything that we encounter in our daily lives; whether it is nature (rain, snow, heat, cold) or society (how others act, what is going on in the world, etc), we can not control or predict. Pretty sad for the control freaks out there… LOL…
However, there is a loophole. According to chaos theory there are feedback loops that hold everything in place (society, people, etc) and that although individual persons can not control the larger events, each person on an individual basis has an enormous influence on these smaller loops that feed into the larger picture. Thus causing a ripple effect. So in effect although we do not have the power to control events in a traditional sense we all possess the “Butterfly power” of subtle influence.
So in a very real sense we are the butterflies, flapping our wings metaphorically and creating ripples that spread far beyond what we could ever imagine, and affecting the outcome and even altering the outcome of events that have yet to occur.
We are the butterflies
I don’t care how much you love your job; sometimes you don’t love it, and you crawl out of bed and wonder why. Why am I doing this, does any of this really matter? How could today possibly matter? How could a few more keystrokes at the computer mean anything?
The butterfly effect fascinates us because we want to find meaning in our actions. We want to be the self-aware butterfly in asia, flapping our wings just so and creating tornadoes wherever we please.
There’s no doubt about it. We are all small actors on the stage of the world, and in our communities. But even the smallest actions can create ripples that change the world. We can’t anticipate the ripples, but we can still flap our wings knowing that our actions might help create a storm of activity.
This means we need to take our actions seriously. A butterfly was made to flap its wings, suck nectar, and migrate thousands of miles with its brood.
What were you made to do? You can’t predict the effects of your actions, but you can take them seriously. You can develop your talents. You can work with diligence and faithfulness and integrity, and treat others no matter how far down they have fallen with the same dignity that you would want to be treated with.
If you want to change the world and yourself, take heart. Your small actions can and do have tremendous impact. Impacts far beyond what you could ever imagine.
How do you know the smile that you brought to the cashiers face when you were checking out didnt brighten her day just enough to help her when she was getting angry at her crying baby that evening?
How do you know the little snippet of conversation that you had with the stranger – that you forgot about as soon as you walked away, saved that persons life because they were in a depression, and you said just the right thing at the right time?
How could any of us possibly know how our ripples are affecting the lives of those we touch on a daily basis. Conversely speaking how many times has a smile come to your face when recounting something someone said, or giving somebody a snippet of advice that you heard years ago in a passing conversation. You see the ripples flow both ways… Pretty interesting when you think about it. Mataphorically speaking someone flapped their wings years ago, and the effects were finally felt in another part of your life..
We dont know and could never know the ripple effects that we have in the river of life.
But I find another truth at work in this mathematical parable. The hypothetical butterfly that flapped its wings in asia never experiences the Texas tornado. It doesn’t know the end of the story, and neither do we.
Who knows where the ripples of your small actions may lead. We don’t and can not control that. Grandiosity doesn’t motivate us to be good stewards of the talents God gave us. No. We flap our wings because God gave us wings. Simply taking flight is reward enough. Simply serving the immediate good of our local community and the people we meet is reward enough. It has to be.
There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. Edith Wharton
Until the next time, remember
the light of the world is knowledge.