Chaos theory teaches us that the flapping wings of a butterfly can start the formation of a hurricane, taking 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 during a visit to 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.
The man turned out to be a god in disguise. Quickly, the woman and her children fled into the hills to become the only people who would survive the flood. The flood then formed the Fewa Lake in Nepal. 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. Its water was shimmering in the sunlight at the foot of forested highlands. 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 is impossible to find in the city. My story, however, was less exciting than that of the legendary woman. It was time for me to return the canoe to the shop from which I had rented it.
As I was paddling back, I noticed something small and pink struggling in the water. I could make out a tiny butterfly. It was slowly drowning. At first I decided to continue paddling and let nature take its course. But then 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 saved it by lifting it into my canoe. My personal act of kindness.
As I directed the canoe back towards the mountainous shore, I noticed something else floating in the water. Exactly in the spot from where I had just lifted my paddle. It was a bigger butterfly, coloured black with turquoise markings on its wings. But one wing was split in half. I had killed it. By saving one butterfly, I had 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.