The Butterfly Effect

I am a rather reflective person. I oftentimes find myself looking back on where I was in this exact moment one, two, three years ago. I don’t do this because I want to go back but because I find it so important to remember who and what helped me become who I am today.

It was about this time during my freshman year of undergrad at UNT that I first heard of the “Butterfly Effect” from a professor. The Butterfly Effect is rooted in chaos theory – dealing with things that are almost impossible to predict – and states that “small changes in the initial conditions lead to drastic changes in the results”; to give an example, the flap of a butterfly’s wings in New Mexico have the power to cause a hurricane in China (fractalfoundation.org). Upon first hearing of this theory I remember thinking “Sounds bonkers to me”.

Not long after, I was eating lunch with a few friends. I had a pretty large bowl of grapes and happened to drop one at some point. It would have been easy to pick up right then but I decided it could wait. A little bit later, I got up to go get more grapes and, in the process, stepped on the one I had previously dropped. It would have been easy to pick it up right then but I decided it could wait…again. As I was walking back to my table, with a FULL bowl of grapes, I once again stepped on the same grape. How my luck is this good (and my memory that bad), I don’t know. But with it being previously crushed, it was much more slippery this time around. From there I remember hitting the ground, watching grapes fly across the room, and hearing the loud shatter of the bowl I had been holding. Laughs ensued.

It was in that moment the Butterfly Effect started to sound a little less bonkers.

I tell this story to illustrate how the Butterfly Effect works very presently in each of our lives. The impact of things from moments, days, months and years past, even in some of the most seemingly minuscule and mundane moments of life, are evident in life today. While reminiscing on these things bring back memories of growth and change, the greatest lesson to gain from it all is the need for intentionality. Intentionality in everything we do. If what we do right now has even a slight ripple effect into the future, which it will because that’s how life works, then it’s really important that we act with care and thoughtfulness. It’s important to recognize the contributions people make to our life and the world around us. It’s important that we fill our time with things that matter. It’s important that we contribute positive small changes to today’s initial conditions in hopes of having the most positive changes in our world’s results.

P.S. I think it’s important to note that I did, finally, pick up the grape. I have also (almost) fully recovered from the embarrassment.

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