Another busy week with a lot happening. Almost as many problems as new cases of COVID. All challenging and sad.
We’ve milkweed growing in the front yard and the monarchs come by to lay their eggs. It got me thinking about butterflies, and since I was a mathematician, the Butterfly Effect. I was hoping there would be an easy way to use this to show how we are each of us connected to everyone else. And how “We’re all in this together.”
There’s lots of information on the internet. I was reminded that some of the basic research came out of Chaos Theory and was first used by MIT mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz to predict weather patterns. Here’s the quote from Wikipedia:
In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.
Yup, I should have stepped back. Ah, but who doesn’t love a challenge and I didn’t mind watching a couple of YouTube videos – heck, challenges keep the gray cells alive.
I read that in one of Lorenz’s research papers he discussed seagulls flapping their wings and changing weather patterns. Butterflies were substituted later and were moved to Africa where their wing flapping caused tornadoes in Kansas, transporting Dorothy and Toto to Emerald City – just joking.
Bottom line – a ripple effect. Little things can have big consequences that don’t remain local. And this occurs even in cases where there is no visible connection between point A (Africa) and point B (Kansas). Even more so when there is a larger degree of connectivity. And this is being demonstrated in several different areas at the current time. You can pick any of the following and be guaranteed a heated discussion: global warming, the COVID pandemic, and now, the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.
You might wish to argue that you’re not one of the shapers and makers, but the butterfly effect would refute that. What you do or say does impact someone living on the other side of the globe. This awesome power comes with a heavy burden of responsibility, one that’s there whether we like it or not.
The world and all the critters in it is a very, very, complex system. When things are local in time and place it’s easy to observe the outcome of my actions. I could open the lawn sprinkler with a little too much force, the spray going onto the sidewalk (or a wind can spray the water) forcing a stroller into the street where (s)he is hit by a car. An accident, perhaps.
However, I can decide to be more aware and more responsible. Acknowledge that my actions do not stop at just one point in time or in one place.
The smallest good deed can lead to positive outcomes at distances and times far removed from the initial point. Your smile is passed on to the bus driver and removes some of his or her worries and they can remain attentive to road conditions. Accidents are avoided and lives saved. We may not have any way of knowing this but the connection is there nevertheless.
We’re diverse and colorful. If we work positively together our actions will be woven together into a marvelous tapestry, one in which we and our children and our children’s children can enjoy.
Ken was a Professor of Mathematics, a ceramicist, a welder, and an IBMer until downsized in 2000. He taught yoga until COVID-19 decided otherwise. He continues writing, living with his wife and beagle in Shorewood, Wisconsin. He enjoys chamber music and mysteries. He’s a homebrewer and runs whitewater rivers. Ken is a writer and his literary works can be found at https://www.kmkbooks.com/
He welcomes feedback on his articles and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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