Most of us have come across the term butterfly effect at one point or another (even if only when debating whether to watch the film starring Ashton Kutcher). We all have a vague notion of the domino effect this concept describes – a tiny change in initial conditions that can trigger a chain reaction leading to a significant alteration in subsequent events. A flap of the butterfly’s wings in one part of the world may cause a tornado elsewhere.
In her insightful book “Quantum Wellness”, Kathy Freston describes the origin of the concept that became a flagship aspect of the Chaos Theory. Trying to predict weather conditions, in 1961 Edward Norton Lorenz decided to round of the wind velocity of .056127 to three decimal points. Using a figure of .056 in his calculation, instead of the original number, completely changed the prediction, leading to an entirely different weather conditions! A seemingly insignificant figure of .000127 ( as small as the air movement caused by flapping of butterfly’s wings) can give rise to a chain of events that transform a sunny day into a hurricane. In the words of Freston, “every action, no matter how small, can cause a huge reaction somewhere else or at some future time”.
Reading that passage, I couldn’t help thinking about the butterfly effects in my life…
It was a warm summer night in Poland. I was showing my foreign friends around Krakow and we just ended up partying in one of the city’s clubs when a drunk young man suddenly stumbled on our way. “Do you want to go to a party with me?” he asked. I could hear a tone of desperation in his voice. ” I will buy you beer if you party with me!” he added pleadingly. His name was Josh and he was Australian.
Our lonely Aussie explained that he was in my country on a stag do, but him and his mates separated on a dare of who would make most friends that night and end up partying the longest. And our dear little Joshie really wanted to win! Since we couldn’t leave the poor lad on his own, we joined him for the free drinks we were promised and kept our new friend company until the sunrise. After breakfast in the city’s main square, we got him a cab and returned to our hostel.Few hours later however, we were out again, repeating the fun of the previous night. Since it turned out Josh had friends in London, we promised to keep in touch…but two meetings later our Aussie was off to his homeland. Soon enough, so was I!
Following on the invitation to visit my new friend is Brisbane, I decided to make it into a proper trip around Australia (details soon to follow), visiting also Sydney, Alice Springs and Melbourne. As I proudly announced my big travel plans on Facebook, a girl I met a while back in a hostel in Barcelona commented on my status reminding me that she lives in Dunedin. Since I’m flying all the way across the world, I might as well visit her too – I thought, checking flights to New Zealand. And so I spent three weeks exploring the land of kangaroos, hugging koala bears, singing Hakuna Matata in the outback, dressing as a mermaid with my new kiwi gay friend, learning about Maori culture and discovering the awe-inspiring Moeraki Boulders (which I still suspect are not stones but bizzare dinosaur eggs). I had most amazing time of my life as a result of an accidental night out that would have never happened if it wasn’t for a Coke Music Festival my friends wanted to go to.
You never know where life’s going to take you. One meeting, one conversation, one decision can end up taking you all the way across the world, where the maps are upside down and people argue over who invented Pavlova. Life is funny that way. So watch out for butterflies – you never know where the next one is going to take you