How many hurricanes are your fault? Remember when you were on vacation in Jamaica in October of 2012? On the 22nd you were at the beach. You let a silent-but-deadly fart slip out, much to the dismay of the British couple sun bathing to your left, remember? Probably not. Well, turns out that little, farty atmospheric disturbance became Super Storm Sandy.
How many catastrophes resulted from your seemingly innocuous behavior? If everything is unpredictably conditioned on everything else, then why do we place such emphasis on right action? Hell, the worst thing I’ve ever done might save the world a thousand years from now.
If chaos is king, why aren’t we paralyzed by the tremendous risk of our every movement? My errant fingernail clipping might start a chain of events that results in the dismemberment of everyone I love.
Yet somehow we aren’t crippled by fear or consumed by relativistic self interest. There’s truth to the butterfly effect, but my lived experience demonstrates that it isn’t totally random. Our actions seem to ripple out and come back to us in ways that make sense. We reap what we sow.
Our own perspective makes this true, after all we filter and interpret everything we perceive. What’s interesting is that this doesn’t make it any less objectively true. Maybe it’s because we are social creatures, but our emotions and the actions they create are infectious. I have an eight month old son, and it’s dramatically apparent that we react to each other’s states. This causation also holds beyond social interactions. My behavior seems reflected back at me by my environment, like the new word that once learned you suddenly hear everywhere.
Maybe it is precisely because we live in an infinitely interdependent and chaotic universe that the results of our actions and their emotional underpinnings come to make sense. When the possibilities are endless, when the amount of information is unlimited, consciousness necessarily means creation because we must shape our world out of the endless existence which surrounds us. So next time you see a butterfly, decide what you’ve created.
This post is part of my Throwback Thursday series and originally appeared on May 6th, 2016 as part of a #MayBookPrompts series of posts prompts by book titles. The prompt was “Butterfly Effect.”