Melanie Stevens

Butterfly Effect

When The Butterfly Effect came out in 2004 with Ashton Kutcher, it was at that time that the theory of the Butterfly Effect was introduced to most of us in the Western Hemisphere, or at least visualized our understanding of the concept. Simply put, it is the idea that the mere flapping of a butterfly’s wings can create massive waves of change in future events, like weather patterns. Chaos Theory, or the basis for the Butterfly Effect, states that dramatic events can actually have a wide range of outcomes, depending on the variables introduced within the initial phases of the event. The irony of this theory is based on the idea that chaos is prevalent in events, yet, if we could input every little possibility or fly-by event, patterns would emerge and life, in general, could be absolutely predictive.

In recent years, a new theory has emerged that pairs this concept with time-travel, that of the Mandela Effect. This theory was first presented when large amounts of the population began questioning whether or not Nelson Mandela really survived life in prison or died in there back in the 1980’s. Many have very vivid memories of hearing about his death and funeral. Though this theory stems from Mandela, there are other “false memories” of pop-culture that a very high percentage of the population have. It’s as if some of us have been hopping between parallel universes… or someone has been alternating timelines through time travel. Interesting concept and one that, personally, I find fascinating as some of my own vivid memories of certain events and pop culture are no longer valid. Mass hysteria? Doubtful.

But, I digress…

My psychology teacher in 12th grade made quite the impression on me when he 1. required us to meditate the first 5 minutes of every class, and 2. explained how by doing habitual movements in different ways (such as using your left hand instead of the right while brushing your teeth) could help change your perception.

When Edward Lorenz came up with the idea of the butterfly effect back in 1961, it was through a mere mistake in calculation. As a meteorologist, he was attempting to find means of predicting the weather, in such a way that wasn’t solely based on intuition. Instead of inputting the correct decimal into the computer program, he only inputted the first three numbers, causing a massive shift in outcome. At first, the printed graph showed everything in fair agreement with the original correct calculation. In a very short period, however, the graph took dramatic differences.

Conceptually, the theory of the butterfly effect seems to express the idea that a normal happening (an event that had some likelihood to occur through set patterns already in place such as a butterfly flapping its wings) could still alter those same perceived set patterns or significantly change events in our linear timeline. Nonlinear equations or events are, so far, not as predictable as they depend on more than one variable that have vacillating actions (such as when a task is completed, how fast we chose to drive, if we were paying attention, if we chose to deviate from our story, if someone else chose to place themselves into our storyline, etc.)  It is in those variations that can cause the repetition of our non-varying lives to gradually alter, eventually picking up speed until our lives become something that we never thought possible. As with Lorenz’s inaccurate input of a specific fraction of a number, the outcome can ride along for a short bit mirroring the normalcy of routine until one day, that imperceptible difference widens and the path of our lives diverge into unknown territory, almost as if we stepped into a parallel universe. Think of someone’s whose life is a mere series of an everyday OCD event in which everything must be done a certain way, nothing must deviate. It is when an outside event (usually) forces this life to alter, first in almost imperceptible ways but gradually picking up speed to drastically change everything – from perception to habits to lifestyle.

There is the question of if a natural element (ex. butterfly flapping its wings) can be perceived as abnormal enough to alter events or does something abnormal need to cause it to change course to create a rift in the direction of the linear timeline events forecast? Or, does it matter? Perhaps, normal occurrences with varying cross events (like differences in time or going out to eat on that rare occasion) can cause slight changes within our lives but, doubtful that the changes will be very noticeable to create any divergent thought. With abnormal events that create friction within our lives (such as doing something outside of our comfort zone or some sort of dramatic event occurring like a car crash) the change would become much more perceptible and, in a sense, chaotic as to produce widely different results.

Most of us live very habitual lives. We may go out periodically or seemingly have some alteration to our lives, yet most of what we do, if not all of what we do, is within certain acceptable parameters of character or comfortability. Should we cause any instability  within that structure, whether it’s through questioning a set belief system or doing something outside of our comfort zone, a ripple effect would cause a complete overhaul of those parameters or structures we have created in our lives, first with minor changes, then with a complete 180° turnaround.

By deciding on a choice that’s outside of our own set parameters, will we change the very fabric of our lives for the better or for the worse? Or is it that when we open up to the chaos of supposed unpredictability that we are also inviting in allowance for more possibilities, more creative license for a more interesting, dramatic, life-changing, freeing, and visionary result that is evolutionary as the world is meant to be, not stagnant or disintegrating?

I challenge all of us to do one thing that we’ve always wanted to do but have been too scared to try and one thing that we would never have thought about doing in a million years (ask friends what’s on their bucket list for this.) Let me know how it goes!

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