the Butterfly EffecT

1 August 2015

WARNING:  This blog post contains questionable, inaccurate scientific descriptions purely for the sake of poetic license.  Physicists, proceed with caution.

The mummy dinosaur in the Ice Age movie was pretty grumpy.  She went off to look for food in the forest, she returns to her nest and some social misfit had stolen her eggs.  She had every right to be grumpy.  “I don’t have time for this sh..ugar!” her angry, teeth gashing expression appeared to say.  An ice age was approaching, her babies were about to hatch and triplets no less! Honestly, this is no time to be chasing after some crazy sloth, a neurotic mammoth and a sabre tooth tiger with identity issues.  When I saw her face, I not only empathised with this prehistoric single mother-to-be of three, I connected with her so deeply that she became the namesake of my alter ego. 

I love how children’s television has reacquainted me so profoundly with basic principles of wisdom and clarity, wisdom that has gotten lost over the years of complex adult life.  Humanity is meant to procreate, if only to be subjected to hours of forced Pixar and Disney teachings, morals that as young children we upheld with much simplistic, singular force of importance:  “We shouldn’t lie; we shouldn’t get angry; we should share and care cause the My Little Ponies say so Mummy!” chimes my four year old constantly reminding me to be a better human being.  If only life is so simple, and things always went according to plan.  Perhaps it ought to be.

When I first started my business, I used to think that some day my calm will come when I would have everything sorted, that disruptions would be a thing of the past.  If I became organised enough or rather if I became better at organising other people enough, my life would run “smooth like a strawberry ice cream”, as my two year old is fond of saying.  Well, having pre-schoolers as well as managing 7 hearing clinics has certainly taught me that in fact nothing ever runs smoothly, and to expect it to, amounts to certain madness at worst and a very grumpy person at best. Have you noticed that whenever something major is happening in your life, that is the time when everything gets thrown out into complete chaos? 

For me, it is always when important meetings have been scheduled or when we are about to go on a trip and dinosaur here has to pack for everyone… something happens, someone gets sick, someone has to be picked up from childcare… schedules disrupted, chaos ensures.  For years, I lamented the injustice at this as if it was only happening just to me.  As if, I am the sole Earth inhabitant with anything worth doing and the forces around me are simply conspiring my to-do lists’ ultimate downfall.  After years of reacting to chaos in exactly the same way each time but expecting a different outcome (apparently a definition of insanity according to Einstein), I began to wonder if there is a better way.

I am not going to pretend that I am a physicist but I have been surrounded by physicists of sorts my entire life.  My understanding of the chaos theory from a super duper, simplistic non-academic point of view says that there is predictable order in what seemingly are completely random sets of events.  The problem is that we are just not very good at measuring what is really going on, and so more often than not, we get the predictions wrong as a very small degree of change can result in a significantly different future.  Hence, why we have 24-hour channels devoted entirely to predicting the weather and still no one actually knows if it will be T-shirt Weather in 7 days.  (No need to call the optometrist my darling husband… I actually did make a reference to The Lucksmiths intentionally 💜)

A quick search of Wikipedia.org on the chaos theory confirmed that this topic is way over my head and for the first time in my life, I couldn’t cheat real knowledge just by having a quick glance of my friend Wiki.  I am grateful however that attending years of Dungeons and Dragons Appreciation meets at university in the hope of meeting boys left no permanent damage - that I did not grow up to fulfil the archetypal Asian nerd label that was so freely bestowed upon me in high school.   What I did learn is that chaos theory suggests that even very minute, small changes will result in significantly different future trajectories – the Butterfly Effect.  Wiki tried to tell me, through complex looking formulae that holds as much meaning to me as my kids’ scribbles, that scientific chaos also involves topological mixing.  In other words, true chaos has to mix with other true chaotic systems, with a healthy dose of strange attractors of jerk systems apparently.  So, Sh*t storms get caught up in other Sh*t storms and attracts a lot of jerks… Hmmm… now that is sounding more and more familiar.

So what is the moral of this story?  Small changes can result in totally different outcomes.  This is the basis of the chaos theory, The Butterfly Effect – the tiny flap of a butterfly’s wing may have propelled us into a future where a tornado occurs… Every little thing you do is significant and can change the course of your future.  You are in fact in complete control despite your chaos, other people’s chaos (or is that cha-i… Mmm… chai), and jerks in your life.   Chaos is systematic we just don’t have the capacity to understand it.  It’s a matter of accepting it as normal and choosing the actions that will most likely propel us into favourable outcomes.  Mummy dinosaur did find her three little dinosaur babies in the movie.  It was every reptilian mother’s worst nightmare, she wasn’t there when they hatched, they had already imprinted on the sloth by the time she found them.  Instead of lamenting her predicament, she scoped up her babies as well as the sloth accepting him into her extended family thereby gaining a free and willing babysitter along the way, and wouldn’t we all love one of those?  So breath. When chaos erupts, think butterflies and flap your motherly wings cause you are in complete control of the choice to stay totally calm.


Heidi Modrovich

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