Monday, June 29, 2009

Of Butterflies, Candles, Blossoms and Fruit

The butterfly effect is an intriguing concept. It presumes an interconnection in life so profound that slight variations anywhere on earth can affect seemingly unrelated events occurring thousands of miles away. It is said, for example, that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil causes minute atmospheric changes that could result in a tornado in Texas or influence its trajectory.

The implications of this theory are far-reaching. We can never know the varied and layered effects of the choices we make in a given moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, writer, and educator, uses another example to illustrate this idea: a lit candle. A candle burns in a vertical direction, beginning as a long taper and finishing as spent wax. However, this candle burns horizontally as well, as heat and light expand outward into the world.

We are like that candle. Certainly, our lives move in a linear fashion. We are born, mature, age, and die. But at the same time, we shine outward as well. We offer to our surroundings our thoughts and feelings, each action we take, and every kind or harsh word we speak.

Living cognizant that our current actions create unknown ripples can inspire us to proceed wisely. We may opt to bestow worthy gifts rather than give of ourselves unconsciously or in ways that may evoke harm.

“My practice,” writes Thich Nhat Hanh in No Death, No Fear, “is to be reborn in such a way that my new forms of manifestation will bring light, freedom and happiness into the world.”

By rebirth, he is not referring to the classic theological concept of reincarnation. We are being reborn in each and every moment of our lives as we live them. We expand outward through our very demeanor. Each time we interact with another creature we extend, just like that candle flame, beyond our vertical dimension.

We give of ourselves and that manifestation lives on. Just as we are influenced by the actions of others, our essence flows out in every moment and is carried forward through those we touch. The end point, if one exists, simply cannot be known from our current vantage point.

This perspective comes with a responsibility to act honorably. While unseen good may, indeed, result from our shortcomings, by consciously and openly admitting an error, we send a precious gift into our world.

We are living members of an interconnected whole and cannot avoid this reality. If a butterfly’s tiny wings can have such unforeseen effects, how much more potent might our own words and actions be?

We are reborn many times each day, in each interaction and in what we bring to every moment. As we seek to become more conscious participants in this vast relay, this dance of life, the words of the poet Dawna Markova can guide us:

“I choose…to live so that that which came to me as seed, goes to the next as blossom, and that which came to me as blossom goes on as fruit.”

May our blossoms be bounteous and beautiful, and our fruit soulfully sweet.

Have a lovely, wing~flappin' kinda week!


Loanne Marie

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