Chaos and Possibility

And “the earth was a formless void . . .” [Genesis 1:2a NRSV]. So the story goes, we were created out of nothing – or out of chaos. Now chaos is a fairly popular addition to our understanding of the world, not to describe as a hopeless mess, but as an explanation of the seemingly random and unpredictable. And in popular parlance, it is a theory where minute changes apparently magnify into huge events – and where equally minute actions can prevent them. An example is when in 1972 the meteorologist Edward Lorenz OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApresented a paper, “Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wing in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?” Apparently he didn’t really answer that question. And through that theory that  flap could prevent as well as cause a tornado. But as a result, this image has become an icon for the possible effect of small changes.

In my head this relates to a truth I’ve held for years: we don’t need to do it all to be all things to all people. Ignoring this causes a lot of the angst in the world. It is not our job to fix our neighbor – or our partner or our children. It is not up to us to discover the cure for cancer, make our family “whole,” or rebuild a business, a relationship, a country, the church, or the world. However, the flip side is that we probably have some responsibility for all of the above, and each of us certainly has responsibility for some of it. There are two additional theories that support this.

The first is a personal, although not unique, theory that I call “touch tag evangelism.”* It works very simply. One only need do what one is called to do, what presents itself at any given time, in order to facilitate change. To touch. This can be anything from a late night session expounding the meaning of life to a smile in the grocery store line. Your “touch” can last for the years someone lives in your house to the two-second exchange in the parking lot. And often you don’t even know it happens, but sometimes are given the grace of hearing later that your doing so and so did such and such. And sometimes not. But the chain is there. Someone else lent a hand or an ear. The person read something they “happened” to find or that you recommended. If you discover the cure for cancer, it will be based on the work of those who preceded you, probably accompanied by some accidental (chaotic?) incidents.  And through that series of events the world becomes a little more whole.

IMG_0337_2The second theory is that the world can indeed work and that we can help make it so. Hopelessness is one of the great self-fulfilling prophecies. However it is also a choice to choose to live in hope and to see the wonders of creation. To live in hope can be equally self-fulfilling.

Even if we’re called to run for public office or to finance a great initiative, it is really just, like above, a touch, part of a series of little things that we can all do to nurture creation and community. For me this began as a hundred “how to make the world work” words and phrases on note cards, a series of “if only people” actions that could help and would multiply if done by more than me. Some are specific (smile!). Some are more reflective (be willing to be wrong [even this theory!]). But their importance was highlighted in a throw-away remark at a recent public presentation. As we took our water break at a retreat house with cups and jugs of water, the presenting professor shared that her students refused to use their own cups in class on the theory that what they did didn’t matter.

I’m inviting you to the conversation that it does matter. Let us answer the challenge one touch, one flap of a wing, at a time, and see where they lead. My bet is that together we can change the world. To facilitate this I will be posting about one topic each week. But this is a conversation not a monologue, so responses are encouraged. You can sign up to receive the posts as they appear in the sidebar on the right.

*Since I’m using the word “evangelism,” this clearly came from my church background and experiences. The short version is that God “saves” (if you use that term). People don’t.

10 thoughts on “Chaos and Possibility

  1. Congratulations on your blog launch Sally! I love love love this post. Even the reference to the butterfly wing made me smile. Someone who once worked for me spoke of this to me when I was upset and making a fuss to my team. She said, “Lissa, you don’t understand that when you flap your butterfly wings, it affects not just your team, but your online community, your family, the world. So choose how you flap your wings carefully- and use your power for good.”

    I was annoyed. Because I was tired and feeling grumpy and just wanted to flap around mindlessly for a while. But I never forgot what she said, and I now see that all of us have this power to flap our butterfly wings for good or for evil.

    If we all applied a mindful approach to well-intention flapping (or “tough-tag-evangelism,” a term I love), it would be so easy to make the world a better place. Yet so many of us feel like we’re powerless, like we’re invisible, like nobody will notice if we flap our wings and the energy it takes to flap will be wasted. Which is a shame. Because then people wind up with songs within them unsung, with dreams no pursued, with love unexpressed, with truth unspoken.

    I wonder how the world would be a better place- just today!- if every one of us chose one touch-tag evangelism action to use today, if we flapped our little wings with one hopeful effort.

    Jeez…we could move mountains.

    Love what you’re doing, my dear. Keep flapping those butterfly wings for the good of our world!

    • Great response. But I’m a little worried about the word “mighty”. A flap is a light thing although the effect is often mighty. In chaos theory sometimes one molecule in a slightly different line causes a huge change. Just sayin’.

  2. Congratulations on your most excellent blog.

    As I read your post, I kept hearing “One, one, one, one, one.” That was reportedly Mother Theresa’s response when asked how to end world poverty and hunger. As I recall, she proposed that, if you addressed the needs of one person; and I addressed the needs of one other person; and she addressed the needs of one other person; and he addressed the needs of one other person, slowly, slowly, slowly . . .one by one by one . . . there would be an end to world poverty and hunger.

    Well done, m’dear. I’ve subscribed. Can’t wait to hear more from you.

  3. Perhaps you misunderstand the term “mighty,” my darling. Small acts of great kindness are, in my book, mighty. But I hear you. It is, in fact, the small acts that serve great goodness, and we need not push ourselves to be “big” when what the world needs is our genuine small acts of goodness.

  4. I actually wish to save this blog post, “Chaos
    and Possibility | Spirit Moxie” on my very own web page.
    Do you really mind in the event Ido it? Thanks -Kristie

  5. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who had been doing a little
    homework on this. And he actually bought me breakfast
    because I stumbled upon it for him… lol. So let me reword this….
    Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to discuss this matter here on your
    web site.

  6. Sally, met you briefly at McClouds last week, while you were literally running out the door. Thank you for your card with the blog info.
    I like your term, “touch tag evangelism”. It is the same concept I refer to as the “ripple effect”. When I interact with one person, if it is positive, they can go on to interact positively with others in their day afterwards. Yes, it is sometimes just a smile. Doesn’t that make you feel better when someone smiles at you? And then maybe you will smile at others as you keep walking. And they in turn will do the same. the image for me is casting that pebble in the water and watching the ripples expand, ever greater.
    Unfortunately, if I were to interact with someone negatively, bc I am grumpy, then they too may interact negatively with others they come in contact with, and then I have set off a ripple of negative activity and interaction. That just is not necessary.
    I welcome an opportunity to meet with you and discuss what you are doing.

    Thanks for your work and casting your positive pebble with your touch tag approach.

  7. Pingback: Despair and Unease |

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