by Jeannie Taylor
It has been said something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world. – Chaos Theory
In our lives, we are constantly being called upon to make decisions. Ideally, some decisions can be made well in advance allowing time for investigation and consideration before making up one’s mind. However, some decisions are spur of the moment and require to be made with little or no deliberation or preparation. Regardless of whether they are planned or unplanned, our decisions have outcomes.
In 1961, Edward Lorenz, assistant professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s department of meteorology, created an early computer program to simulate weather. In the article, The Meaning of the Butterfly, by Peter Dizikes (June 8, 2008, Boston Globe Media), Lorenz changed one of a dozen numbers representing atmospheric conditions, from .506127 to .506. That tiny alteration utterly transformed his long-term forecast, a point Lorenz amplified in his 1972 paper, “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set off a Tornado in Texas?” The “innumerable” interconnections of nature, Lorenz noted, mean a butterfly’s flap could cause a tornado – or, for all we know, could prevent one. Similarly, should we make even a tiny alteration to nature, “we shall never know what would have happened if we had not disturbed it,” since subsequent changes are too complex and entangled to restore a previous state.
As a result of Lorenz’s work, the catch phrase ‘The Butterfly Effect’ was coined. In general, people have come to associate the phrase with the idea that regardless of how small or seemingly insignificant our actions are they have the potential to yield a wide range of outcomes. A single word, decision, or act can change the course of our lives, the lives of others, or even our world, forever.
Those of us with hearing loss can leverage what we do and say to bring about beneficial and desirable outcomes for our community despite the communication challenges we face. Your actions and mine have value. When we interact with others genuinely and remain open to the needs of those around us whether hearing, deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind, the potential for optimistic and constructive change is enormous!
For your consideration:
- Regardless of where you live or how many people you come into contact with on a daily basis, do you think the power of your words, gestures, and actions, toward others have the potential to bring about outcomes (anticipated or unanticipated) that will alter the world?
- How can we increase the possibility of beneficial outcomes rather than harmful ones when it comes to making decisions about our own hearing loss?
- Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” As a person with hearing loss, how does this quote apply to you?
- My challenge to you: Experiment with ‘The Butterfly Effect’. Choose a time when you are interacting with someone. Then say or do something intentionally that has the potential to set off a wave of positive, optimistic energy in the life of that person. The impact could be the start of something great! Watch for results, and share them with us soon!
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