The Butterfly Effect


I’m not sure if I’m blessed or cursed to have a fairly large amount of time in my life in which I can spend hours down the rabbit hole of the Internet, researching and following any thread that interests me.

meeting of the mindsI can spend days, even weeks, deep diving into all things esoteric and non. In an ideal world, I would live in a salon, where others of like minds would join me in this intellectual pursuit, and we would solve all of the mysteries of the universe.

Until that day arrives, the world and it’s distractions will continue to impede my potential band of mystery solving superheroes.

The imminent destruction of a small butterfly sanctuary on the American/Mexican border caught my attention recently. While this is by no means as horrific as the sadistic practices trump’s Homeland Security goons wage against refugees and immigrants, it is, nonetheless, notable. 

butterly effectCan small things, matters almost imperceptible in a larger picture, change the world? Can a tiny event, hardly noticeable on the day it happens, serve as a catalyst for a planet’s future?

“some systems … are very sensitive to their starting conditions, so that a tiny difference in the initial ‘push’ you give them causes a big difference in where they end up, and there is feedback, so that what a system does affects its own behavior.John Gribbin, Deep Simplicity

People are funny; some are hypersensitive to changes in systems, while others simply cannot understand long term consequences. For some, it’s willful blindness, but for others, it covers up a truth that might irreparably damage their psyche if faced. Better to not believe one’s own eyes than to have to admit that some small, likely unimportant act – or lack of acting! – might have long term, and horribly dangerous consequences.

for the want of a nail

If we are to believe that our actions have consequences, how do we live with ourselves when we fail to act in proactive and logical ways? if we know that eating certain foods will make us ill, how do we rationalize our actions when our food and beverage intake is reflected in damage to our bodies? If we are made aware that smoking cigarettes damages the lungs of both the smokers and the non-smokers that breathe in those fumes, how do we come to grips with the illness or death of a loved one who passively inhaled what we exhaled?

climate change is not just politicalIf we are told that 97% of climate scientists believe that our disrespect for the planet will cause untold harm to not just those living on this earth, but on the generations to come, how can we not look at the havoc we continue to inflict on the globe, and not feel sick at what our greed and selfishness has wrought?

Many of us vehemently DON’T want to believe that something tiny and barely noticeable could affect our lives … psychologically, that’s called proportionality bias: the inclination to believe that big events must have big causes.

That’s what leads so many to become conspiracy theorists. In any given year, roughly half of all Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory, according to the University of Chicago‘s political science professors Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood. Without the slightest trace of evidence, 19% of Americans believe the U.S. government planned the 9/11 attacks to start a war in the Middle East, while 24% believed in Trump’s ‘birtherism‘ theory that claimed former president Barack Obama was not born in the United States.9 11 files

Today, 61% of Americans remain convinced that the official Warren Commission report on Lee Harvey Oswald’s part in assassinating President John F. Kennedy, is incorrect – they believe that he could not have acted on his own. And since the 1963 tragedy, the number of disbelievers has never dropped below 50%; proportionality bias tells them that one man, with one bullet, could not have so dramatically changed the course of history all on his own.

“It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.”
— from Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

In 1961, chaos theory, or the butterfly effect, was brought to prominence in a work written by mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz. While running a numerical computer model to redo a weather prediction concerning the details of a tornado, he entered the initial condition 0.506 from the printout instead of entering the full precision 0.506127 value.

The tiny change brought about a completely different weather scenario result, and highlighted the sensitive interdependence on conditions that could result in very large differences in expectations, with just a small change in calculation.

The term, ‘butterfly effect‘ was actually the second name given to this phenomena. Lorenz originally used a sea gull’s wings to describe the theory.

” One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a sea gull’s wings would be enough to alter the course of the weather forever. The controversy has not yet been settled, but the most recent evidence seems to favor the sea gulls”

butterfly killerColleagues suggested that changing ‘sea gull’ to ‘butterfly’ would be more poetic, but it was not until 1972, when he was wondering how to title a talk he was giving on the subject, that colleague Philip Merilees concocted Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?  as a title.

I can’t help but wonder if those scientists might have been influenced by the 1952 story, The Sound of Thunder, written by Ray Bradbury, in which a time travelling hunter changes the future, by stepping on a butterfly, 65 million years in the past.

In the short story, set in 2055, a man named Eckels travels back in time to shoot and kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex. But he panics at the sight of the beast, and accidentally steps off the path that he has been warned that he must follow. When his hunting party returns to their present, everything has changed, right down to the language that people are speaking, and it is apparent that an evil dictator is now in control of the nation.

 

Bradbury writes: “Eckels felt himself fall into a chair. He fumbled crazily at the thick slime on his boots. He held up a clod of dirt, trembling, “No, it cannot be. Not a little thing like that. No!”

Embedded in the mud, glistening green and gold and black, was a butterfly, very beautiful and very dead.

“Not a little thing like that! Not a butterfly!” cried Eckels.

It fell to the floor, an exquisite thing, a small thing that could upset balances and knock down a line of small dominoes and then big dominoes and then gigantic dominoes, all down the years across Time. Eckels’ mind whirled. It couldn’t change things. Killing one butterfly couldn’t be that important! Could it?”

Ford as Dear LeaderAh, to speculate on all of the apparently insignificant moments that shape destinies and alter our times and history! While we may not recognize them, when they happen, or for what they portend, threads of cause and effect are created.

And in time, those moments can change the course of a human life or of a peoples’, eventually impacting  everything from our fashion to our emotions and our health, from our politics, to our economies and our very planet.

Best to have a little humility in the knowledge that our fates and futures can be sidetracked by something as fragile as a butterfly’s wings, in a time of chaos.

tags: Roxanne Tellier, Butterfly Effect, Internet, Homeland Security, John Gribbin, Barack Obama , Warren Commission , John F. Kennedy, Good Omens, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, chaos theory, Edward Lorenz., The Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury

Under Construction


We are all ‘works in progress.’  Or should be.

work in progressPeople are not meant to be static entities. It’s human nature to constantly grow and change, to take in new ideas and incorporate them into a whirling dervish of a world. We watch nature’s cycles, the patterns of waxing and waning, and STILL we want our own dealings with other actual people to remain constant. Our highest praise to an old friend is that they haven’t changed.

And yet, everyone responds to a continuum of change in different ways. We may begin every one of our interactions with other humans with the best of intentions and the highest of hopes, but not being attuned to each others progress through life can only end in stagnation or regret.

One day, the world is our oyster … the next, it all seems very challenging. Sometimes we love everyone; sometimes the people in our closest circles are growing and changing in ways that no longer meet our needs, or match our core values. To be human is to recognize and respect not just our own need to evolve, but the evolution of each other.

dolly parton quoteI will never understand how some couples can hold strong, solid, passionate political leanings that are in complete opposition to their partner’s. I can admire those couples, but I just can’t imagine that they can be truly mentally intimate. Having to compromise in a relationship is to be expected, but having to suppress words and feelings to avoid pressing a partner’s hot buttons would wear me down to a nub.  Eventually, conversation would become so controlled that you’d be down to hoping that ‘pass the butter’ didn’t unleash a torrent of fury. We are drawn to the politics that mesh with our core beliefs, and that reflect our attitudes on every interaction we have with the world and each other. ‘Politics’ is just another way of defining who we are, and of displaying our team colours to those we have yet to know.

Camus quoteWe can try to alter ourselves to meet the wishes and expectations of others, but that way lies madness. The controller inevitably becomes the controllee, a slave to enforcing a status quo that’s no longer applicable, or even much fun, to either party.

Which is not to say that all of life has to be fun, or perfect, even though that is what we all think we want. A life without obstacles might seem desirable, but stumbling blocks are what strengthens our essence, and makes meaning of our existence. A month of intense heat makes us long for the chill of winter snows. Intense sadness, leavened by moments of great joy, allow us to appreciate the highs, the lows, and the calms in between.

When we try to halt that progress, try to capture a moment in time and make it our only reality, we are doomed to tainting that wonder. You can’t pin a butterfly to a board and expect it to retain its colours and movement … even if you try just to hold it for a time, you’ll likely damage it. Admire the beauty of its flight; a butterfly must be free to enjoy its brief dance in the sun.

“Stuff your eyes with wonder,” he said, “live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that,” he said, “shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.”  ― Ray Bradbury     

walk away from drama meme.jpgThroughout our lives, we will enter into relationships with many people. Some will last for as little as a conversation, others, for decades. All of our experiences, all of our past encounters, combine with who we are when we present ourselves, and how the other person presents to us, and will determine how loosely or tightly we connect in that first meeting.  The longevity will depend on mutual respect, not just for what we think we want, but for who we become in the process.

I often think that life is a dance. The choreography depends on our own internal music, and the steps we’ve invented with our needs and wants. The tempo changes with our reality and perceptions – sometimes life is a tango, other times a waltz.

If you are very lucky, your life may be a Pogo, formed of joy and enthusiasm and the sheer giddiness of really feeling alive and in the moment. And the beauty of joy is that it is always available .. you only have to choose to see it and seek it. No one can give it to you – you have to reach out and take it. From cradle to grave, joy is always just a grasp away.

The dance can be frenetic, like riding in bumper cars, crashing head to head or bouncing off of each other, all great fun in the moment. Some see the dance as a long game, like chess, and carefully plan each move far in advance. The trouble with planning those moves is that we can never assume what the other dancer might do.  All is subject to change. They are dancing their own pas de deux.

Life’s dance can be a solo turn or a chorus line; pas de deuxa Balanchine ballet, a polka or a frenetic Frug. The dancers weave in and out, entering our line of vision, participating in the exercise, enriching or detracting from the show. We can ask the other dancers to accompany us in our dance, and it is a lovely thing when we dance together in perfect harmony.

What we mustn’t do, however, is hobble the other dancers. Each one’s dance is their own, and subject to change. Each of us has a time to lead and a time when we must follow. Every dance has its own beauty and dignity. Every dance and every life is a work in progress.

 

 

(first published July 2016 – bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/07/31/roxanne-tellier-under-construction/)

 

Books, Music and Stuff


Tolkien if-more-of-us-valued-food-and-cheer-and-song
The skies are grey, it’s been raining for days. What better time to turn my attention to the accumulated office mess and scan through the wee bits of paper on which I’ve written a germ of an idea, usually accompanied by an *asterisk* and several exclamation points!!!? I just have to haul them out from under the weight of the newspaper clippings, flyers, magazines, library books and paper backs they’ve landed under, over and in between.

I’m an idea junkie, a bibliomaniac and a collector of all things relevant to my incessant research on anything that tickles my imagination’s fancy. Don’t tell me to go digital – my computer’s ‘bookmarks’ are too numerous to be manageable. No, the printed word is my vice, which is why I live in fear that, at any time, a laden shelf will collapse under its own weight and crush all in its path.

george_carlin_house stuff1It has been ever so. Even as a kid, I would escape into a world of books. My temple of choice was the local library, where I could devour books of all kinds … for free! … and float home on a cloud of new fantasies. When I left Montreal for Toronto in my twenties, I had to have several car loads of boxed books and files moved to my new city. It’s madness, a mania, and despite my current need to downsize, an almost impossible task and a literary Sophie’s Choice.

It’s hard to get rid of “stuff.” George Carlin nailed it when he said, “Have you noticed that their stuff is shit, and your shit is stuff? And you say, ‘get that shit off of there and let me put my stuff down!’”

Carlin accumulating possessionsWe love our stuff; we’re emotionally attached to our stuff, especially if the stuff has the added sentimentality of having coming from a loved one. Having our stuff around us makes us feel secure. We’ve got our house stuff, our office stuff, our gym stuff and our car stuff. I have a purse so prepared for any eventuality that it could double as an overnight bag. Except – no, I’ll need that too, cuz for overnight I’ll need even more stuff.

BOOK-HOARDERSome people like stuff more than others. We call those people ‘pack rats,’ or in extreme cases, ‘hoarders,’ the distinction being that the pack rat has a messier house than you, and the hoarder is in imminent danger of being crushed under a shelf that might collapse under its own weight and … oh my god I’m a hoarder!

Fact is, it’s easier to hoard than to be an organized person. You just never sort the stuff, or throw anything away. You find great deals on something you must have, or you sell off less significant items to finance your obsession, and you scour Craigslist or freecycle, where those without your particular kink actually give away what you’re jonesing over… and the collection grows …

ant-and-grasshopperI am the Ant, with a need to amass that trumps the flightiness of the Grasshopper. I shore up my perceived literary needs, present or future, with a stockpile that will protect me from a cold winter.

But even within my collection, there are prejudices and disunions. Books about music and the entertainment world live happily side by side with dictionaries and reference books. Those are the ‘honourables,’ the undisputed Lords of the Shelves. Books written by or about friends come next, with first, special and signed editions following.

treasured-booksLowliest of the low are the mass market paperbacks and hardcovers, although I have a few authors whom I adore, and will never unfriend. And then there are the hundreds of books that piqued my interest, but have yet to see their spines cracked. Whether fiction or non-, they taunt me with their promise and possibility.

book monsterI’m working on dismantling my book monster. Every day I sort through another category, refining my choices to what I MIGHT write about, as opposed to subjects I’ll never really pursue. I’m streamlining what remains, in the hopes of becoming a more selective reader, and of being better able to actually locate that particular reference that I need while writing a column or proving a debate point.

-it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-nightAlthough I can see a day when I’ll rely more on electronic media, the internet and e-books than I currently do, I still crave the physical sensation of holding a book in my hands, opening the cover, and reading the first sentence of a new tale, one which the writer laboured over incessantly until he or she thought they’d found the exact right words to capture a reader’s imagination.

But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to walk indifferently past a bookstore, especially one with shelves that groan under titles I’ve never read. Books – displayed, sold, and treasured – these are the gold I seek. A man who can write, and who can passionately discuss a favourite book, attains a special status in my heart and mind.

And music … I must have music. A man who can slip a literary reference into a song … that’s a delight beyond words. I quivered when Sting mentioned Nabokov’s Lolita in “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” I grinned when Smoky Robinson referenced opera’s Pagliacci in “Tears of A Clown.”

Books and music are not such strange bedfellows. The Strokes, The Smashing Pumpkins and deadmau5 have all written about soma, the drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album had three songs that mused upon George Orwell’s1984.” Bowie actually planned to do an entire rock musical based on the novel, but Orwell’s widow objected to the idea, so the project was shelved.

The Ramones wrote “Pet Sematary” for the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. It was later covered by Rammstein. And of course, Elton John’sRocket Man” is Bernie Taupin’s condensation of Ray Bradbury’s short story.

Books and music are my hoarded gold. Toss in a beer and a sandwich and we’re golden.

(originally published Feb /2015 @ bobsegarini.wordpress.com)