On the wings of a butterfly


I don’t want this to be taken the wrong way, but every so often I see a bit of humor in scenarios when some type of event or situation creates an action-reaction scenario that puts chaos and disbelief on full display.

And when I say I don’t want that idea to be taken the wrong way, it’s mainly because… unfortunately… the events and scenarios are often dramatic and potentially difficult experiences.

For me, however, I’m not downplaying or not appreciating the importance and significance. Instead, it’s just a slightly askew, just a tad out of the box, just a one or two steps away from center way of considering what’s happening. And, in doing so, specifically giving thought to the unexpected.

Most of us have heard the term butterfly effect, right? In the simplest of notions, the concept essentially is a way of saying that even the smallest of changes, disruptions, ripples in the water, moving of a butterfly’s wings, can create the most dynamic of changes down the line.

More specifically, consider a walk. Let’s say you possessed the ability to walk in a perfectly straight line. Now, instead of pointing directly from a to b at the start, we’re going to see you position your movement mistakenly off by just one degree at the very first step while then continuing along your perfectly straight line. Move a foot or two, and you won’t be off-line by an inch. But after a mile, even moving perfectly straight, you’d be dozens of feet away from the line you intended to be on.

We’re not dealing specifically with the butterfly effect as a theory in this essay though, but it helps to have that in mind. Small change… small adjustment… perhaps even unnoticed or not considered… big results when encountered.

A few years ago, my wife and I were playing cards and listening to the radio. It was a battery-powered radio, and we had candles lit in the room. Power was out as a result of a hurricane.

My askew thoughts? I started hearing from friends that had children at home they needed to entertain, so they were spending an hour or two in the driveway, running a car so they could recharge the batteries for their phones and tablets.

A tad out of the box? Cell phone service had been knocked out completely. If you didn’t have a landline to use, you were cut off. No calls going out. No calls coming in. No social media. And on and on.

One hurricane, and suddenly all those people wondering why anyone would have a household phone or a battery-powered radio had been knocked right off the horse. You know, so to speak.

Big rush right now for drive-in movie theaters. People going bonkers about them being around and opening up. They can get out of the house… roll up the car windows so they are socially distanced… see a movie on a big screen. A huge relief, even if just a brief respite, for cabin fever.

A few years ago? Drive-ins were collapsing. Hard to find any. Main reason in recent years has been the cost of conversion to digital projectors. There have been many reasons over the years for drive-ins declining and occasionally seeing some bursts of nostalgia. But the past few weeks have seen discussions and celebrations unlike anything in decades.

Know something else getting a bit of buzz lately?

Facial recognition devices.

People are wearing masks. All people. All over. Masks and masks and masks.

(Which of course leads to a completely different steps away from center joke… based on a punchline where the most aggressive of protestors these days are heading out without masks, saying you can’t make them wear masks because it infringes on personal freedoms, and yet the lack of masks makes them more easily recognizable. Insert your joke here. Back to our essay…)

People are wearing masks. And users of security cameras and recognition software and such are having to scramble.

Unintended consequences. Slight changes. And suddenly, action-reaction.

For me, it’s almost always the reaction that proves the most interesting. It’s the second… and third… and later shoes that drop with the strange thuds. Dropping just a degree from where intended, a few miles from a butterfly.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com