Back to deriving wisdom from nature: Butterfly lessons

Chaos theory teaches us that the flapping wings of a butterfly can start the formation of a hurricane, which will take place weeks later. Small actions can have large effects that we cannot always predict. This is called the Butterfly Effect. I was reminded of the Butterfly Effect, when I learned of a local legend while visiting Nepal.

Legend says that one day a man was wandering the streets of a village, begging for money. Only one woman was kind enough to give him some coins. The poor man then warned the woman about the coming flood. He turned out to be a god in disguise. Quickly, the woman and her children fled into the hills to become the only people who’d survived the flood. This is how the Fewa Lake in Nepal was formed. The woman and her children settled next to the lake and were the first inhabitants of a city that is now called Pokhara. A small act of kindness had led to the survival of this woman, her children and their descendants.

Centuries later a traveler, being myself, was paddling a canoe on the Fewa Lake. At the foot of forested highlands, its water shimmered in the sunlight. The backdrop showed the majestic mountain range that we now call the Himalayas. I was feeling alive. The still water allowed for a peace of mind that’s impossible to find in the city. My story was less exciting than that of the legendary woman, though. It was time for me to return the canoe to the shop from which I’d rented it.

As I was paddling back, I saw something small and pink struggling on the water. I could make out a tiny butterfly, drowning slowly. At first I decided to continue paddling and let nature take its course. But the memory of the legend of kindness made me I change my mind. I steered my canoe back around and with some moving back and forth, I managed to get my paddle underneath the drowning pink butterfly. I lifted it into my canoe. My personal act of kindness.

As I steered the canoe back towards the mountainous shore, I noticed something else floating in the water, exactly in the spot from where I’d just lifted my paddle. It was a black butterfly, bigger than the first one. The butterfly had turquoise markings on its wings, but one wing was split in half. I’d killed it. By saving one butterfly, I’d killed another. One effect of my small act of kindness was murder.

Maybe this was a lesson in letting nature take its course. Unless the pink butterfly turns out to be a god in disguise and the black butterfly was about to cause a hurricane.

We can only make decisions to the best of our abilities.

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