sensitive dependence on initial conditions

I’ve often thought about what it would be like to be able to rewind, to be able to take present knowledge into the past and undo the things I’ve done to screw up my life. The desire for such an ability, however, has always been darkened by my knowing that I’d just screw everything up in a different way.

Last evening I watched The Butterfly Effect, a movie about a young man who was blessed/cursed with an abnormality that gave him the power to return to critical points in his life where he could alter his actions to create an alternate future. How this all worked out in the movie solidly confirmed my supposition that nothing could or would be gained.

The title of the movie is, of course, taken from an aspect of chaos theory stating that a hurricane’s formation is contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before. As ridiculous as this thought seems on first encountering it, I cannot deny the possibility.

Knowing that every decision I make, every action I take, and every word I speak, however small and seemingly insignificant, can have a profound effect on everything that comes after, in both my life and the lives of others, is overwhelming. It makes me want to shut myself away and have no interaction with the world. But I suppose even that non-action would affect the future.

Having seen this dark, pessimistic movie, I think I would still do the rewind if it were possible. Certainly I would make a mess of things again and end up with another life of regret and remorse. But I can’t imagine how it could be a whole lot worse.

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and he got it right.

Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived. Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it. Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.

© panthera2, 2012.

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