The Butterfly Effect

Do-overs — what a concept. Unfortunately, life doesn’t dole out too many of those. Something good happens when we expect the worst, and we’re over the moon. Something terrible happens and we say ‘What the?’.  If we’re lucky, we get the chance to change direction, which may change the outcome – or not. Remember when you stuffed yourself dinner and became so green with a stomachache you had to ditch that Broadway show? Or how about when you bluffed on your resume, forgetting you’d be actually be expected to KNOW what you said you did. There are a million things, big and small, unimportant and critical, even tragic, that we’d love to wriggle our Bewitched-nose and change. Sorry, that only happens on TV.

If you ask any widow, whose love story suddenly ended or a parent who’s lost a precious child, if they would have cancelled the devastation those losses brought, their answers would be a resounding ‘yes’. But, if it meant they would also have to cancel all that went before, would any of us still choose to pass?

I think not.

Small things can have big effects. A tiny grain of sand can alter history and shape destiny. The smallest things can have the biggest impact somewhere we may never know.  Even if we don’t see the change, it can happen in our own lives, our friend’s, even in those of people we’ve never met. Scientists say that everything is interconnected. One single action can trip off something completely different in the future.

It’s been said that something as small as the flutter of butterfly’s wings can cause a typhoon halfway around the world.  Chaos Theory

In 1963, Edward Lorenz proposed that a butterfly flapping his wings can cause a hurricane somewhere in the world. Admittedly, that sounds a bit outer limits. But, by the 1990’s, physics professors, working together, proved the theory true and accurate. It can be hard to understand how seemingly random changes can effect the course of your life, but even small ones can cause huge changes in another time and place.

“Each man’s life touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” the angel Clarence told George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. The film imagines that, without George where he was meant, so many things would have been different. Bedford Falls would have been Pottersville. The town chemist would have gone to jail for decades for the accidental death of a child. The townspeople would have been at the mercy of an unscrupulous banker. George’s wife would have remained a spinster librarian, and his children would never have been born. Whew. This film not only touches our hearts but also makes us realize that every person, positively or negatively, affects the lives of others.

Change one thing; change everything.

Everything we do, big or small, links us in ways we never imagined. The butterfly effect means there’s no such thing as coincidence. Remove one Jenga piece and the tower begins to wobble. Every event in our lives leads to the next; they are all connected.

Your life and what you do with it matters forever. Andy Andrews (The Butterfly Effect)

It’s hard to imagine that one butterfly, flapping his wings, can cause a tornado or a drop of water that, when it’s multiplied, can fill up a lake.  Enough tiny grains of earth can build a mountain. One small thing can be a catalyst, a tiny ‘shove’ that effects where many things end up. We have no way of knowing what tips the scales but, like a single domino, just one can trip the rest. I only have to think of the accident I had a year ago to remember that. Had I taken my eyes off the road for one second, (no texting, guys!) I wouldn’t have seen the car, going the wrong way in my lane, bearing down on me. And if I hadn’t seen that car in time — I would not be here to write this today.

There’s another side to the Butterfly Effect. No matter how unimportant we perceive our part in the whole to be, everything we do makes an impact. If that kind, encouraging teacher hadn’t come into your life, if that boss hadn’t become a mentor, if the kid who picked on you — hadn’t, you would be a different person today. Even stuff we thought would destroy us, hasn’t. We may have had our confidence, security, and hearts broken but, like the saying goes, ‘what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger’.

There are generations unborn whose lives will be shaped by the moves you make and actions you take. Andy Andrews

If I could go back to night I met my husband, knowing how the future we would plan together would end far quicker than ever imagined, what would I choose? Would I instead, wait for someone who didn’t bring cancer into the mix? But, would that someone have had the patience to drive every other Saturday, for 10 years, to my dad’s after my mother died? Would I have met my true ‘equal’, another writer and music lover who was also madly in love with me? I’ll never know and that’s a good thing. If that first night hadn’t happened, all the good, bad, happy, crazy and tragic that wove the fabric of our lives together wouldn’t have happened either. My kids wouldn’t have had the ‘dad’ they always wanted nor would my grands have the grandpa who taught them baseball and how to drive. My life might have been easier but a whole lot emptier. Even when things that happened really sucked, my life ultimately unfolded the way it did, for a reason. Everyone in my life and yours; every tragic, comic, growing experience made us who we are today.

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.  Maya Angelou

I can’t change what happened nearly three years ago, anymore than I can change what happened yesterday. The Butterfly Effect means being conscious that everything we do today because it just may shape how the rest of our stories go. Just when a caterpillar thinks his world is over, it becomes a butterfly. That transformation is a pretty good reminder that despite any darkness we walk through, we can still become something beautiful. And, by our actions, we can also transform the lives of others.

You’ve earned your wings, my friends. Now, fly and — kick ass.

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