The Butterfly Effect

Time travel and relativity have always been fascinating topics for me. In high school, I read Einstein’s Dreams, a collection of stories describing the theory of relativity using people and places, about a hundred times- apparently enough to warp the library’s system into forgetting I hadn’t returned it by the time I graduated. I love getting involved with and mentally breaking down time travel scenarios in movies and TV, to the occasional annoyance of who ever is watching it with me. One concept that particularly appeals to me, especially when examining time travel plots, is the butterfly effect.

The butterfly effect is the idea that any large event can hinge on the smallest, seemingly insignificant occurrence that may have happened weeks, months, or years earlier (such as a hurricane being the ultimate outcome of a butterfly flapping its wings weeks beforehand). Complex systems and events can often be influenced by the most minuscule things through the domino effect.

In time travel scenarios that involve going to the past, the butterfly effect, at least in my mind, nullifies nearly any possible scenario. The mere act of talking to someone for a minute could very well preclude your existence. Maybe you distracted them from meeting someone they should have bumped into, and from that someone they met someone else, who shared their idea of this, or fucked this chick and impregnated her, and so on. It can drive you crazy trying to comprehend all the potential consequences of travelling to the past (though it seems to speed up the time/space continuum during long car rides). In Einstein’s Dreams, those that had traveled to the past were sorry creatures, hiding in the shadows, never speaking, hardly daring to move lest they alter the future in any way. Less seriously, In C&C Red Alert (fuck yeah!), Einstein went back and shook a young Hitler’s hand hoping to prevent WWII, finding instead he paved the way for a Soviet invasion of Europe.

Understanding how the butterfly effect relates to you is a crucial step towards owning *all* of yourself, of fully internalizing your locus of control. This is a Good Thing. Who you are now is a collection of thousands of small decisions that you yourself have made. Even regarding large events that you did not have complete control over, such as birthplace, family, and genetics, you have still made tons of decisions on how to deal with them and hopefully make the best out of them. You cannot take responsibility for yourself, and from there, your goals for development and improvement, until you recognize that past or present, there are few things that happened wholly without your influence.

Those who dwell in the past, asking “What if?” and wishing they could change past events, tread on dangerous ground. It’s mental masturbation, a subtle (or not so subtle) way of beating yourself up, and it’s fucking ungrateful. It devalues yourself and the experience you gained from past mistakes while distracting from moving forward. Instead, think of all the good that came from whatever it is that you regret.

For example, if I didn’t meet this chick and date her for three years in college, I wouldn’t have almost all of my best friends and all the times we had- not because I met them through her but because if I wouldn’t have been dating her I would have been at different places at different times. I wouldn’t even be the same person- I learned a lot and grew into myself during that time. Hell, I wouldn’t be writing this. Should I ever, in a moment of weakness, delve into a “what if?” fantasy to undo the 3 years we dated, I would be blinding myself to the fact that so much good came out of it, things that may never have happened otherwise.

A common trope in the manosphere is “I wish I had found the red pill sooner”. But you didn’t and now here you are. Would you rather you never had? You can wallow in bitterness and past mistakes, or recognize that if you hadn’t had been dumped so hard, or if you were having even slightly more success with chicks, or your life had been *just* good enough, you might never have gone looking for answers. Instead of plodding along uneventfully in mediocrity, shitty stuff had to happen so that many eventually went looking and found dudes like Roosh, Roissy, D&P, and us here at NLU. Now they’re in a community of men who all push each other and strive for the best and offer all kinds of great advice, stuff they never would have considered or known about if they hadn’t gone looking.

With the knowledge that a) you can’t change anything in your past without changing who and where you are right now and b) even the smallest decisions now can have a big impact down the line, building yourself up becomes that much easier. You can see where you’ve been slacking and what you’ve been doing wrong, and you know that it’s up to you to get where you want to be. The inifinite possibilities that can come from a single decision to start something new boggle the mind, you just have to dive in.

Three years from now you could be looking back at the decision you made today to lift your first weight. Now you’re swole, feel and look awesome, you met a couple bros you party with, chicks come up to you at the bars, and people treat you better. Your increasing confidence and pride trickled into other areas of your life like your job and approaching women and putting yourself out there more to meet people, and those snowballed and built on top of each other. I’m not claiming lifting is the magical cure (though I’m not not saying that), but in this hypothetical it was the decision to start lifting and stick with it that eventually led to developments and events which then led to other changes and decisions and so on, things that might never have happened on their own.

Would you rather look back and marvel at all the little things that got you to where you are now? Or would you rather look back and wonder “what if?”, wishing it all was different?

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About The Author

They call me Fly, Fresh, and Young. Gym rat by day, lecherous drunkass by night. Follow me on Twitter @nate_moneyh.

1 Comment

  1. nek February 2, 2014 at 11:34 pm

    Excellent Article. This is definitely one of my big weakpoints, dwelling on negative moments in the past. Even worse, I dwell on how certain situations/moments/events could have gone bad. While I’m a cynic, I’m not a particularly negative person and for some reason I have to dwell on the negative, even if the negative wasn’t what actually happened. Or how something/someone negative from the past will come back and bite me in the ass in the future. Knowing this about me, I try to “live in the now” as much as possible but I’m still quite a contemplative person so this only works so far.

    It’s interesting to see other people have these thoughts.

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