The Butterfly Effect
Embracing a Concept in a Chaotic World: Small Occurrences Can Create a Vast Outcome
A man returned from sea after being gone for months to find a world virus-ridden with deaths, lockdown, and disorder. The world he knew when he departed on his journey was no more.
A black man, accused of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill, died after being thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and pinned beneath a white police officer’s knee for nearly nine minutes.
Though vastly different, both have created tidal waves, crippling the world. The commonality of dense populations has given these situations -Covid-19 and Racism- the momentum to breed and incite enormous fear.
2020. A new year that felt full of promise. Yet here we are in the thick of it, scared and scarred. We are all, the entire world, spinning on a double pandemic, while a million-mile foot race ensues to find a vaccine. Violence, along with peaceful protests, has overtaken cities; many schools still have not reopened, and the disquiet of uncertainty taints daily life. Lockdown has proven to be far from easy.
The onslaught of life seems random at first glance. But upon further observation, amid the complexity and chaos, is order.
Edward Lorenz, a mathematician, unleashed a revolution called chaos theoryin the early 1960s, whereas small differences in a complex system trigger vast outcomes. In his quest to predict weather, he found that the smallest changes in weather patterns could lead to enormous differences days or weeks later. Prior to his research, mathematical equations had been used to precisely gauge the physical world. What came to be known by Lorenz as “The Butterfly Effect”, states that abutterfly that flaps its wings in one corner of the globe, with that single action, can change the weather halfway across the world.
Does this mathematical model exist in our reality?
Whether it’s in reference to weather, or current events, the ambiguity of the chaos theory is that things are not random. We, as observers, see chaos as hysteria and disorder. But there are in fact underlying patterns, loops, and repetitions. There is organization inside the chaos.
Nothing is accidental.
In Ray Bradbury’s time-travel novel The Sound of Thunder, he shows that a simple event can cause the future to be changed. The main character Eckels finds a crushed butterfly (oddly enough) in the mud on his boots after traveling back in time 66 million years. The death of this single creature set in motion a string of consequences that changed the entire timeline of the future.
He also noted “the stomp of your foot could start an earthquake, the effects of which could shake our earth and destinies down through Time, to their very foundations.”
With time, random acts form meaning, and conclusions, and healing. Stability emerges. Perhaps everything has led us to this moment. No one is untouched by this year, nor its events.
The cure is time.
Lorenz went on to say: “If the flap of a butterfly’s wings can be instrumental in generating a tornado, it can equally well be instrumental in preventing a tornado.”
Don’t be silent. We cannot predict the future. But the impact that each of us has is so great. One action can be the start of an avalanche of positivity.Don’t expect change immediately, but know that it is coming.
Mother Teresa is quoted as saying “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.”