Questions and Chaos

Life in the 21st Century

Questions and Chaos

Friday, July 13, 2007

Like everything else in nature, we are part of an ever changing and cycling world. We live out our lives in a world of infinite interactions. Like the wind and the weather we are part of a chaotic system. Generally we only see the immediate effect of our actions, if any, and tend to assume that our actions are insignificant in the big picture.

The other day, I read a newspaper article describing a very minor incident that ended up creating unbelievable havoc. A seventeen year old young man was at a play centre with his four year old nephew. Apparently the nephew threw a ball at another child. The adults accompanying this child became very angry. There was a physical altercation and police were called. Later in the day the young man was driving down the street. The same people saw him, ran him off the road with their truck and hit three other cars. Then they got out and threatened him with an axe. Now that’s a story about anger spiraling out of control!

If negative events can escalate into something much bigger than expected, it is also possible for this to happen with events we consider positive. Of course, negative events that didn’t happen are completely outside our awareness. We will never know about the man who went home and didn’t pick up an axe, even though he might have been right on the edge. We hear about the people who commit outrageous crimes. We will likely never hear about people who’ve made an outrageous change for the better. When we think about our own lives we can probably remember a time when someone said just one sentence at the right time that made a huge difference to our feelings, our confidence or our actions.

A friend of mine once found herself working in a rough part of town. When she walked down the street at lunch time she decided to smile and say “Hello” to the unkempt people she encountered. Did she make a difference? Because we can’t see the effects, we assume there aren’t any but that is not necessarily true.

Just as the snowflake falling to earth is shaped by temperature, humidity and impurities in the air, our lives are shaped by the people and situations we encounter every day. Unlike the snowflake, we have the ability to ask questions and to choose how those events will shape us. We have the power to ask, What is the most compassionate action? What would be the best action if it spread and escalated? We can choose whether we will say “Good Morning” to the homeless person, ignore him or tell him to “Get a job.” If a customer is angry with us at work, we can choose to do our best to stay calm or we can let the anger infect us and take that anger home to our children.

The best measuring instruments with the best computing power cannot predict the weather for more than four days. We have no instruments available to measure the outcomes of our actions. The best we can do is ask questions and choose our actions as wisely as we are able.

It’s a paradox that our actions may make no difference at all or they may make all the difference.

1 Comment »


Comment by Peggy

July 23, 2007 @ 12:17 pm

Interesting how some of the simplest actions can and do make a difference. Someone smiles, says thank you, holds the door, compliments you; you smile back and chances are you will pass it forward at the next opportunity.
The person initiating the action experiences the satisfaction of the response or just the sense of having made an effort to connect with a stranger in a positive way.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>