February 3, 2013

Robins and Butterflies

This morning I happened to catch sight of a flock of migrating robins stopping to take a breather in my backyard. I snapped a couple of quick pictures with my cell phone and then went back to buttering my toast. By the time I was finished, the robins were gone.

So much of life is like that, random events that occur by the millions every day, events that may or may not get noticed during their brief lifetime, events that nonetheless are threads in the fabric of destiny being constantly spun from the looms of the gods.

Chaos theory tells us that very small differences in starting conditions can lead to significantly different outcomes, the so-called butterfly effect: a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon and a couple of weeks later there is a thunderstorm in Tulsa. Okay, so maybe that's pushing it a bit, but you get the idea.

The robins in my backyard ... are they the starting condition or the midpoint of some unfolding chain of events ... or both? Well, we know those robins are the starting point of this essay. But really, the point I am trying to make ... about moments witnessed by a single observer ... first took shape while I was out golfing, when a hawk startled me as I was walking from one hole to the next. Which in turn reminded me of an earlier incident, and so it goes.

We are the outcome of many such moments, private and shared. Take away any one of them and we are different people living different lives. Add a new one and the steering currents of our lives shift ever so slightly.

Which raises another question. Unless we understand all those moments, can we ever completely understand anything or anyone? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind caused by unseen flapping wings, be they butterflies or robins.

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