My introduction to the concept (in the mathematical sense) of chaos theory was Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. I read it as a kid; as a kid my favourite part was when Nedry got his at the wrong end of a dilophosaurus. I immediately liked the character of Ian Malcolm, the mathematician who wore nothing but black and gray, accurately predicted the collapse of seemingly impervious systems at every turn, and  manfully restrained himself from punching the air and yelling ‘QED, bitches!’ every time a velociraptor gutted a secondary character. I was young, so I didn’t understand a lot of what he was saying, but that hardly mattered by the time the film came out. Jeff Golfblum played Malcolm as warm and funny, as only Goldblum can, and that was enough for me¹.

In the novel, and in brief, Malcolm explains some of the basic ideas behind chaos theory, most specifically the pop-culture touchstone of the butterfly effect. As Malcolm tells it, to determine where a cannon ball – once fired from a cannon – will land should be a simple business; if you calculate the force of the propulsion involved and the trajectory the cannonball will take, based on the elevation of the cannon, and apply these factors to the weight of the ball itself, then you should be able to make a pretty accurate prediction of where the arc of the ball. This is what’s known as a linear system; a system where the calculations involved remain the same and you simply plug in new values to get different results. Isaac Newton loved them, and if you’re looking to understand things like mechanical motions, electrical circuits, or sound waves, then linear equations are your go-to guys.

But chaos theory concerns itself with non-linear systems; systems defined by, among other things, their high sensitivity to initial conditions. This is where the butterfly comes in – weather being just such a non-linear system. Because the development of weather systems is so complex and dependent on previous iterations of the system, tiny changes at the onset – say, something as small as the flap of a butterfly’s wings – can alter the entire course of the day. The butterfly flaps its wings and you and your family enjoy a sunny, cloudless day. The butterfly doesn’t flap and tornadoes devastate the Midwest.

Figuratively.

My own personal knowledge of chaos theory and related topics is entirely abstract and hugely general, with no basis in physics or mathematics, and, really, more gaps than knowledge. Thanks to Wikipedia and lunch hours at work, I understand the concepts of cascading failure (ie, for want of a nail), black swans (ie, surprise!), and fractals (ie, best friend of stoned college students). I understand these things in my humanities background kind of way, and I take a vague comfort in knowing that there is such a thing as chaos control, the idea that points exist where a chaotic system can be knocked back into some semblance of predictability.

Knowing these things, I try to look at storms differently. There are clouds overhead right now, and from one perspective – on the surface of things – the term ‘storm’ merely refers to rain and lightning and thunder and the need to shut the window if I want to avoid getting my computer wet. From a more quantum-oriented perspective the thunderhead rolling over is really wheels within wheels within wheels; energy and matter and physics and electricity and the breaking of the sound barrier, interacting and interplaying according to the moments that have preceded them, cause and effect going back in time and space to the initial development of the storm and something as small as a butterfly flapping its wings; an air current that went one way instead of any one of a hundred others.

Which may not seem to make that big of a difference, but, when you think about it, you wouldn’t be reading these words right now if a girl named Leah hadn’t wanted to kiss me when I was 17.The steps go like so:

1. Leah wanted to kiss me (also, yes, I wanted to kiss Leah).

2. Because Leah wanted to kiss me (and I wanted to kiss Leah) we sat and made awkward small talk in the backyard of a friend’s house at a high school party.

3. Because we sat and talked, I told her I needed to find a job.

4. Because I told her this, she found me a job at the club she worked at.

5. Because I worked at the club, I ended up going on a short-lived reality TV show.

6. Because I went on that show, I became friends with the host (on MySpace).

7. Because I was MySpace friends with the host, I became friends with Zoe Brock (on MySpace).

8. Because I was MySpace friends with Zoe Brock, I decided that when I was going to move to the States, I would move to San Francisco, where I at least vaguely knew some people.

9. Because I moved to San Francisco, I met Zoe in person.

10. Because I met Zoe, I ended up writing for TNB.

Abracadabra.

It’s important to remember that these events in time and space aren’t set up in ranks of patiently-waiting dominos. There’s more to the world than action:reaction, stimulus: response. Movement through life is through a vast – and vastly complex – interplay of events and non-events. It’s impossible to pick a definitive starting point for any one situation and draw a thread of causality from one moment to another².

And people are more complicated than weather systems, it’s true, but they do have their similarities. They’ll rain on your parade, storm out of the room, bring some sunshine into your day… even blow you, if you’re lucky.

Just as we can’t fully map weather systems, it would take an intelligence and a perspective far greater than human to pick a single event that’s occurred in the life of any given person, capture and draw it out of time like a blood sample on a slide and then reverse-engineer it, step by step, and say: ‘That’s where, ultimately, this started.’ At birth? Sure. That’s a beginning for a person, depending on how you want to apply the label ‘beginning’ to a mass of molecules and energy movements moving from one position to another. But any given birth necessitated that two parents moved through the world until they came to that precise moment of conception that led to that birth, and that’s also true for those parents, and for the parents of those parents, and so on and so on, all the way back to the start of time. And maybe if one of those parents in that long line had been caught in the rain on the way over to their lover’s house, everything that followed from that divergent point would have been entirely different.

Here and now, we are all the accumulation of all that has gone before us, everything that has happened, or hasn’t happened, to bring us to this point. Right now I’m writing this because someone somewhere decided that working on a Sunday was to be avoided, so I don’t have to go to work today, affording me the time I need to write this article. I’m also writing this now because a car didn’t hit and kill me yesterday as I went to meet my friend Jay for coffee. And I’m writing this right here and now and as the person I am because of every single experience and event that has come before 7:23pm, January 17, 2010.

I mentioned kissing in the title.

When two people kiss, two worlds – separate in some ways, connected in others – meet. When you (the individual you, the general you, me, my neighbours, your neighbours, anyone and everyone) kiss someone else, it’s not just your lips on theirs; it’s everything, everything that has preceded it coming together, because every single thing shaped that precise moment. If I kiss someone (it happens, sometimes), then that moment, and that person, is connected to every single thing that makes me, me, and forevermore will be.

The physics that Orville and Wilbur Wright put to work to shake the hold of the earth in the Kitty Hawk in 1903 are present in me, because they led to me crossing the Pacific³. Running down a back street in Templestowe, flanked by five other frantic teenage guys, holding a flaming, gasoline-doused pizza box – that moment is there too. The rain on my grandfather’s face, the rain that followed complex chaotic rules that my grandfather, to my knowledge, never even dreamed of – that too played a part, however small, in who I am. My personal history, the personal histories of my friends and family, of the people I’ve met… they’re all here in the effect they’ve had. Moments of doubt, or pain, or triumph, or love, or laughter; moments when physics I’ll never be able to understand were at work, moments that I will never, ever be aware of, all of them combine and inter-react to bring me here, now. And if and when I kiss someone, those have brought me to that place too.

At the same time, it’s also just a kiss.

So, do me a favour. Make out with someone – anyone you like – and bring a little more connection into the world. Be the butterfly that flaps its wings and maybe alters the course of everything; if they need some convincing, just direct them to this piece and let them know that they’ll be acting as part of a wonderful, chaotic, complex system of cause and effect that took millennia to bring them to today.

And tell them I say, what up. Because I want to go back to San Francisco, and apparently, people making out is how that works.

¹ This was before I’d a) seen The Fly and b) realised that Goldblum had spoiled my chances at a shot with Geena Davis.

² despite the fact that yes, that is precisely what I have just done in this example.

³ I’m also amused that they subsequently had a debate with the Smithsonian Institute about the precise details of that.

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SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

123 responses to “Kissing in the Rain”

  1. D.R. Haney says:

    This is my favorite thing you’ve yet posted. And to think that I almost didn’t read it when I saw a few minutes ago that you’d posted, because I’m a bit tired of facing a computer screen after doing so for much of the night — this despite my thinking as I did earlier today (really!) that I wished ole Simon would soon post something.

    But it does seem to me a result of SSE; that the wheels have been turning (or mental wings flapping) so as to make sense of it. And it reveals, to me at least, a new side of you, though I can’t quite articulate what that new side would be, except that it feels as though I’ve seen flashes of it in other recent exchanges with you: a growing interest in science, maybe, or anyway in things just this side of science, as well as a more serious attitude overall. But I’m only groping as I try to give words to a very vague sense.

    I like the nod to Freud’s cigar with “it’s also just a kiss.” And speaking of Freud, he had a version of your anatomy of a kiss when he said that you never go to bed with just one person; you go to bed with his or her entire family. And you include the world besides, which is as it should be.

    Yes, history is within us. Which is why it makes me so sad that history is increasingly ignored. But I’m all over the map here, and hopefully something in what I’ve said makes sense.

    • Thanks, Duke. I appreciate that, especially as I think it may be one of the favourite things I’ve yet written for TNB. I wanted to make sure I had all the gears turning on this one, although I’m sure I’ll think of a hundred edits to do before too long has passed.

      I think I’m feeling much more comfortable with expressing thoughts and instincts and cognitive processes that I’m experiencing than I have been in the past, which isn’t to say I will ever not be happy to drop a reference to sleeping with Janeane Garofalo. And the science of things is interesting me more and more; the quantum of experience (which isn’t to say quantum physics, but rather the idea of reducing things down to their smallest component parts and stripping away the surface presented by the larger picture, to see what makes them tick).

      I didn’t know that quote about never going to bed with just one person, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

      Damn it. I almost accidentally typed that ‘me’ as ‘us’. I’ve been doing that a little lately. I’m not sure if I should be worried.

      My thought on history is that the maxim is true – those who don’t understand history are condemned to repeat it. That’s only really a good thing if your history is a wonderful thing.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      This was a fun read, but I do have to insist upon a note of caution. In my opinion, one of the most important principles in the run-up to what became the enlightenment is “Entia non sunt multiplicanda sine necessitate,” a paraphrase from William of Ockham. It means that in explaining things, it’s best not to proliferate entities without clear need. This was written in a context of literally Byzantine systems for describing God and the world, but he also meant it in its basic form of ontological simplicity, which has come down to us popularly under the rubric of “Occam’s Razor.” The principle is actually very strongly in accord with, e.g. Igbo consmognomy, and I would claim Tao and many other very philosophies that emphasize individual capability and responsibility, and don’t lead to belief systems that are easy to “game”.

      I’ve always found in the popular vogue of chaos theory a dangerous rebellion against ontological simplicity. Chaos theory in effect multiplies entities unto infinity, and I think the result are belief systems ever further from the empirical, and thus easy to manipulate, as Ian Malcolm does in _Jurassic Park_. I guess a less polite way to put it is that it leads most often to a lot of nonsense.

      That’s not a condemnation of chaos theory itself, which is very useful when applied to carefully-selected problems. The worry is with the populist simplification thereof which in a way turns it into a philosophy, and a philosophy that I feel is in the end anti-humanistic. There’s a bit of an analogue in Quantum mechanics. Physicists used Schroedinger’s Cat as a warning about the consequences of adapting Quantum principles too grossly, but since it’s happens to be in a package people can easily digest, it’s often mistaken for a philosphically useful illustration. Malcolm’s philosphically useless sermons are kinda the Schroedinger’s Cat of chaos theory.

      But as I type all this I do realize I’m just being a spoilsport. It’s genuinely fun to play Monday-morning-Butterfly-wing quarterback. As long as we are aware that we shouldn’t at all take it seriously.

      • Uche, you’re ruining everything.

        I kid, I kid.

        The problem that I find myself running up against is that of reconciling these different considerations – to continue your Butterfly-wing quarterback portmanteau, to create a unified football field theory. I too agree wholeheartedly with the principle of Occam’s Razor (while at the same time trying to balance it out with Chatton’s anti-razor, although a large part of me suspects that William of Ockham just got up Walter of Chatton’s nose and he wanted some payback). And I agree as well on the dangers of a little knowledge, especially when taking those populist simplifications you speak of and turning them into a philosophy without really taking into account where the original theories come from and their application (again, I have to say, very well said. A very neat summary).

        Unfortunately, being aware of the wider web of eventualities and the fact that interplay certainly does occur, it’s all too easy to get caught up in considering what led to this and who led to that, and where led to here. Before you know it, your only option is Alexander’s with the Gordian Knot – otherwise, you’re caught in the middle of an ever-expanding web. And yes, it can be immensely anti-humanistic.

        It’s OK. You’re spoiling nothing. It’s genuinely fun to bounce ideas back and forth over the internet, too.

  2. Zara Potts says:

    Jeez Brew, you’re a thoughtful and wonderful guy.
    I love this piece, but you already know that…

    • You’re a thoughtful and wonderful person yourself, brew. And just think, you’ve got Lauren to thank for our coming into contact. Thanks again for giving this a look over; I tend to get more nervy about the pieces that I actually put some serious thought into than the ones about me sleeping with celebrities.

  3. We’re very similar people, Simon, and that scares me more and more with every time I read something you’ve written. Not that I don’t enjoy it – because I always do – but I can’t help but wonder if someday some giant coincidence will occur, or some series of seemingly unlikely events that only we would have noticed, that will change things and that it will be followed by a sad TNB post along the lines of, “If only David had never read Simon’s TNB posts he would never have, years later, died in a horribly unlikely…”

    Anyway, I also related to Ian Malcolm and tend to view my life in the same way – observing all those twists and turns. I blame a teacher who once informed me about the trillions upon trillions of events in the history of the world, that if had gone any other way would most likely have resulted in an unrecognisable world…

    • Oh balls, when I started writing this I thought I was going to be the first commenter! I spent so long thinking about dinosaurs and the possibility of dying from reading a Simon Smithson TNB post that I slipped down to third…

      • Divad, I hope that should you have a horribly unlikely death, it’s a horribly unlikely death that is as touching and poignant as it is likely to claim the lives of dozens of innocent bystanders.

        It’ll drive you crazy if you think about it too much. Like, given that thoughts are generated by electrochemical signalling between neurons, and both electricity and chemistry follow observable rules, can we extrapolate backwards and get to a point where nothing in life is a choice at all, just a series of causes becoming effects, which in turn become causes, all following set universal rules that we’re unaware of?

        If I’m going to keep pursuing this train of thought, I might need some paper and a couple of pens.

        • Then that paper and pen would probably lead you to another TNB post, which would make me do the same, and then as I left the stationary store with my newly acquired pen and paper, I’d trip and fall and stab myself in the throat. The ink from my pen would spray into the face of a driver and he’d careen through a crowd of bystanders, who would be reading your fatal TNB post on their handheld computers.

  4. James D. Irwin says:

    Fantstic Smithson, fantastic!

    I like hearing TNB origin stories.

    I wonder how many people got here via MySpace in some way…

    The butterfly effect always makes me think of the Ashton Kutcher film of the same name…

    • Why, thank you, Irwin. Thank you.

      I like hearing them too. I actually heard the other day that a friend of mine followed Brad way before I was writing for TNB, which was an odd little piece of information to come across. Small world, that internet.

      Yeah, Kutcher staked a pretty big claim for the term. Edward Lorenz, however, was the guy who fathered a lot of this stuff. Like a lot of great discoveries, it came about by accident, when he entered a figure into a predictive weather model but cut off three decimal places to save paper, and suddenly ended up with a vastly different result.

      I’m not sure if he could act though, so that’s why he never went Hollywood…

    • Gloria says:

      I did. I got here via MySpace. Because that’s where I met Brad Listi. But I got to MySpace thanks to my failed marriage. Which is to say that I wouldn’t have ever been here reading this had I never gotten married. And that – and my children – almost makes my decade-long war worth it.

  5. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    I love thinking about these kind of issues, though I used to have a physics-major roommate who told me I was thinking about them all wrong. That was in San Francisco, and it’s a small shame events didn’t conspire to have us cross paths when I was there. Though at least the butterfly flaps lead us both to TNB. Thanks for the good read.

    • It’s so irritating to me when I espouse ideas I’ve had based on some mathematics I saw in a movie once, and people who actually know what’s what say ‘Well, no, that’s not how that works,’ and their damn ‘science’ ruins my hard-thought argument.

      It is a small shame, but, as you say, the butterfly has brought us here. Thanks for the compliment; I’m now off to read your latest myself.

  6. I see our existence as an ever expanding fractal – just morphing and getting bigger all the time according to the choices we make and the canvas that the day provides.

    After reading your piece and making my coffee while listening to the fractal product that is my daughter who is eating toast and watching her favorite morning show – I played that game where you try to pinpoint the moment all would have changed so that today would not be so.

    But everything that has happened bring us to now. Bear with me here – if I may.

    If I hadn’t met my English boyfriend at an open mic night because I was a singer-songwriter (which happened because I was trying to impress this guy I was lusting after who was a poet – because I could sing and a had a guitar laying around), I wouldn’t have met who would become of my closest friends who was at the time the girlfriend of my English boyfriend’s friend from work – we would bond because both guys turned into total assholes who would break our hearts – but then she started dating a guy at work as a rebound- totally killer greg – but they’re romance fizzled quickly due to lack of chemistry – but they stayed friends which made me become friends with him and years later he would come to my shows, steal me away from my vegan perpetually late cyclist boyfriend at the time, we’d fall in love and then eventually through many series of events make the children that we have today through the roulette that is my egg and his sperm – they would be totally different if say – Dominick had woken up from his nap early that day – Prudence would be a different combo of egg and sperm – oh dear – now I feel nauseous – too much!

    Thanks Simon – I feel a sense of appreciation that I might not have had this ordinary morning.
    May your choices on the canvas of the day bring you much love and happiness in your fractal.
    xo to you!

    • And thank you, Steph.

      That’s just it – every single thing has brought us to the here and the now. The slightest change in the percentages and you may not have met the illustrious Mr. Olear. Or maybe you would have, but the circumstances would have been very different. And I’m not sure there’s a better illustration (oh, look at that. Illustrious/illustration. I didn’t even mean to do that) of just how much one thing can change everything than in children. Now there’s a system that’s sensitive to initial conditions…

      Part of me really wants to just start throwing as much chaotic behaviour as I can into the world, just to see what happens.

      And may your choices bring you fractal happiness as well!

  7. kristen says:

    Aw, great one. How I love this shit so. The if not a, then not b, c, d, on and on and on and.

    “Moments of doubt, or pain, or triumph, or love, or laughter; moments when physics I’ll never be able to understand were at work, moments that I will never, ever be aware of… all of them combine and inter-react to bring me here, now.”

    Love your attention here to “moments I will never, ever be aware of,” as that’s a point I tend to overlook in my frequent musings around this stuff. There’s just so infinitely much going on both in- and outside of us, it’s bloody impossible to bring it all together–to begin to hope to recognize even a sliver of it. And that’s beautiful and dizzying and absurd and countless additional things I’ll never, ever have the words for.

    • Thanks Kristen! I love this shit too. And yeah, on and on and on to e and f and g and h, etc, etc…

      It niggles at me a little, that my brain can’t encompass everything ever. I’m trying to get more fish in my diet as a remedy, but I grimly suspect there’s a ceiling on how close that can get me.

      An old boss once accidentally taught me a lesson when we were trying to fix the beer pumps at work. We checked everything we could, the kegs, the gas, the taps, and finally, he stared at the machinery and said ‘OK. What can’t I see?’.

      I took a lot from that comment.

  8. George Cockcroft says:

    Damn clear exposition, Simon, but I can’t help feeling that you’ve missed how unpredictable human acts will always be. It sometimes read as if everything is cause and effect except that we don’t have enough data to make predictions. What modern physics seems to be concluding is that there is built in randomness in all sorts of things–electrons, mesons, zions, peons–you name it. The causal chain may work in Newtonian physics, but not in today’s physics. One thing that I learned from reading Nassam Taleb is that the human being is programmed to look for causality in human acts, and thus the human being creates illusions each time he claims a causal connection. I can’t predict what my next sentence is going to be and, after I’ve written it, don’t have the foggiest idea why I wrote it. And I could study the matter for another decade (assuming I live that long, and the way randomness works I’ll be quite happy to survive the next two and a half minutes) and never ever be certain of why I did something.

    Your recent writing has become more serious, but I’m quite confident that sooner or later you’ll come out the other side (a prediction! I’m mad!) and end up laughing. And make your readers laugh too.

    • That damn Taleb – he has stores of knowledge that I wish were in my head. If only I could pull them out like file cards and put them straight into my cranial computer.

      On a purely mathematical note (and I’m cautious about saying this, because a) it may not be the best application of the maths, and b) my maths is pretty shaky anyhow), the concept of the Lorenz Attractor might be helpful here. It’s a system that is both deterministic and chaotic, depending on what information is entered for its initial stages (Jesus, I can’t wrap my head around some of this stuff), and that seems to about sum it up for me. Except, of course, given that there’s just so much going on in any one person’s life, both in front of and behind the scenes, billions and billions of different events, and billions more outcomes existing in potentia, that that randomness is increased to the nth power.

      I don’t think we’ll ever be at a point where we have enough data to make fully accurate predictions through mathematical models, and I’m also not sure that the systems concerned are inherently open to predictions – it’s one of those things that I’m very interested in learning more about.

  9. Ducky says:

    Very thoughtful piece. And it got me to thinking.

    If this moment is the accumulation of all prior moments (to distill things), then is this an argument for Determinism? That’s some sticky turf for me.

    “People are more complicated than weather systems, it’s true, but they do have their similarities. They’ll rain on your parade, storm out of the room, bring some sunshine into your day… even blow you, if you’re lucky.” LOVE THIS!

    I might also contend that weather is more complicated than people. Us peeps just like to think we’re complicated, but really we’re very a very crude and predictable species. But I also live in Texas where a famous saying is, “If you’re tired of the weather, wait 5 minutes.”

    • I just can’t make up my mind on the Determinism front. George’s comment above is a good one about the total and complete state of randomness that we live in. And while I know this isn’t the correct state of philosophical enquiry to live in, on a purely personal/emotional level, I hate the idea of Determinism. It’s too constrictive. That being said, if it turned out that I was determined to have lots of stuff, I’d suddenly find myself bang alongside the idea.

      We’re a combination of broad strokes and finer ones, I think. There’s so much going on the brain that there must be something complicated about us, right?

      Right?

      • Ducky says:

        Not so much. People are easy to me. When I meet someone I can’t figure out, that’s usually when I fall in love.

        Also, I had this thought: why is it assumed that the combination of events in our life lead to a specific moment, and that without said moments, things would have turned out differently?

        Is it not possible to get to the same place in life taking a different course? There are many roads that lead to the same place.

        • Yeah. Me too. Love’s a real asshole like that.

          Oh, absolutely. A left and a right will get you to the same place as a right and a left (if we’re talking city blocks here, and there are no potholes along the way); but it won’t be exactly the same place, or you won’t be exactly the same person. I guess the question is whether those differences amount to anything noteworthy.

  10. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    “…it’s everything, everything that has preceded it coming together, because every single thing shaped that precise moment.” It is, isn’t it? Both the present moment and the vast web of the past right there.

    Lately, I’ve been contemplating “frozen accidents.” (Novel #2 makes me visit quantum physics, again.) Physicist Murray Gell-Mann explains this as an event with far-reaching consequences that ties back to one moment that could have happened differently. I’m oversimplifying, but anyway… Apply that to global matters–as in what did and did not happen because of the nuclear boming of Japan in WWII–or personal ones, pick a moment in one’s own life. If I think about this too long, my brain wants to disintegrate.

    Terrific, perceptive, thoughtful piece, Simon. Thank you.

    • Murray Gell-Mann. Damn. More for the Amazon shopping list.

      In this kind of forum (no offense, TNB! These are large topics) I think all you can do is oversimplify. There’s just not enough space to go into the nitty-gritty otherwise. My brain too, don’t worry. Even for questions as simple as ‘What if I’d turned left instead of right?’

      Thank you, Ronlyn. Much appreciated.

      (On a very different note, I can’t help but now dream of an accident down at the ol’ particle physics lab concerning hair product and some experimental particles… and a security guard screaming ‘Oh no! It’s Gel Man!’)

  11. Matt says:

    Profundity first thing on a Sunday morning. I wasn’t expecting this. I think you broke my brain. Quick, get the Superglue!

    Seriously though, well-thought out and crafted piece. I was having a similar discussion with someone out in a bar the other night (where I was attempting to spread the love, and *achem* the make-out action) about how all the bad things that have occurred in my life are part of the alchemical equation that leads to “me” in this current moment. And being pretty happy with “me” right now, I can’t exactly look back and disparage those experiences, can I?

    Personally, I’m curious about the chain of events that lead from your decision to rewatch Deadwood to writing this post.

    (Also, I think the only reason Ian Malcolm doesn’t do the fist pump is because he’s loaded up to his eyeballs on morphine for 2/3 of the book.)

    • I’m very sorry about your brain, amigo.

      Thanks! Who knows what that conversation in the bar will now lead to? Or not, as the case may be.

      I’m not sure there was a conscious connection between Deadwood and this post. Although Al Swearengen did make a good point about how certain actions by Woolcott had changed Cy Tolliver’s entire project, so I guess Woolcott was the butterfly in that situation. The crazed, straight-razor-wielding butterfly.

      • Matt says:

        The crazed, straight razor-wielding butterfly that brings the hurricane that is George Hearst. Who was played by veteran American TV actor Gerald McRaney. Who was just the other day mentioned in Marni’s post…..

        Flap flap flap

  12. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    I’m really glad Lauren wanted to kiss you.

    On the other hand, we’re lucky it was Lauren, because if it had been any other of the hundreds of girls who wanted to kiss your handsome face, we might not have known you!

    • Aw, shucks, Irene.

      Yeah, that Lauren was all right. Nice girl. I think it really came down to kissing either her or Karina that night. I so totally made the right choice (with no offence to Karina).

  13. Simone says:

    Wow, Simon. Wow.

    You know that feeling when you’ve watched a bloody brilliant movie, you leave the theatre thinking ‘Damn that was awesome! I need to watch it again and again to wrap my head around it’? Well, I’ve read this piece three times already…

    The wheels and cogs in my brain are turning at a much faster rate than ever before. You’ve got me thinking about things in a whole new way.

    I’m feeling free, so here’s a kiss: X from me sitting in my tiny apartment, in Johannesburg, all the way across the Indian Ocean, to where ever you may be in Melbourne. I hope that it has some effect in getting you back to where you left your heart (and shoes, hat, and watch).

    Thanks for writing such an enlightening piece. It’s my favourite one of yours.

    ***

    On a side note: I’ve begun using Orcale cards very recently. I have a deck of Goddess Guidance Orcale cards. I decided to shuffle them and pull one randomly for you:

    Goddess: Diana

    Theme: Focused Intention

    Message: “Keep your unwavering thoughts, feelings, and actions focused on your target, and you will make your mark.”

    ***

    Talk about SSE… The last few days I’ve been doing a reading for myself each day and everytime the “Diana” card, amongst others has come up. Strange, mmm?

    • Wow, three times! I’m flattered. Thank you, Simone.

      And thanks for the kiss as well. Let’s see what new wheels are set in motion by the action.

      I scored Diana? Cool! I’ll focus my attention like a laser (or a maser. I’m not sure which one is more focused. Whichever the more focused one is. I’ll go with that one).

      That ol’ SSE is well and truly back in effect these days. And I love it.

  14. Darian Arky says:

    I sat just a little bit longer in my chair by the window in the living room to write this comment.

    Because I sat here longer, it gave the sniper whose been trying to kill me more time to take the shot.

    Thanks.

    You kill me.

  15. Erika Rae says:

    I love this Simon!

    I got to TNB because of a bad haircut.

    Because I had a bad haircut by a neighbor, I went to a certain hair salon to get it fixed.
    Because I went to said hair salon, I met Lance Reynald, who cut my hair (fabulously, I might add).
    Because I met Lance Reynald, I started reading TNB.
    Because I started reading TNB, I desperately wanted to WRITE for TNB.

    Bur let’s take that further, shall we?

    I went to the neighbor to cut my hair because I didn’t want to spend the money to go to a pricey salon.
    I didn’t have the money because I had started an Internet biz with my husband.
    I started an ISP with my husband because it’s his dream to run his own company.
    His dreams became mixed up with my dreams because we got married.
    We got married because we loved each other (and also because we were little Jesus freaks and wouldn’t have sex before marriage.)
    We were Jesus freaks because we both grew up in the Bible Belt.
    Because, we both grew up in the Bible Belt, we met and started dating.
    We started dating because (wait for it…) we wanted to kiss each other in the pizza parlor inside the race car arcade game at age 14.

    Huhn. So…I got here because of a kiss, too.

    • Thanks Erika Rae!

      This is what I mean. Making out is a butterfly with big, big wings.

      Sometimes.

      I’m glad you wanted to kiss in the pizza parlour when you were 14, because here you are now.

      Thanks for sharing the chain of events. I wonder if anyone else got here through a kiss?

      • Anon says:

        I suppose you could say that I did but I’m not at liberty to discuss the details. Of course, you could go the existential route and say that all of us are here because somebody kissed someone else….

        • Curiouser and curiouser…

          Exactly right. And now I’m wondering if any time I kissed someone just as a one-off (a pash ‘n’ dash, as we like to call it over here in Australia) and the surrounding events set someone off on such a different track as Lauren did for me.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Did you get pash rash, brew?

        • I’ve managed to dodge pash rash for the most part; in the normal run of things I’m clean-shaven, but, as of late, as I’ve been letting myself get a bit more stubbly, I’m keeping conscious that the experience of making out with me could be a little sandpapery.

        • Anon says:

          I’ve been told that some women appreciate that whole stubbly look. The trick is gauging that fine line between “French tickler” and “belt sander”.

  16. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Odd. I have no idea why my comment at 2010-01-17 17:26:42 above (“This was a fun read, but I do have to insist upon a note of caution….”) didn’t appear here, at the end of the thread. I didn’t click to make a threaded reply.

    I know. I know! CHAOS!!!!!! 😀 😛

  17. Phat B says:

    I’ve got a lung infection, so I’m just gonna make out with this shrimp spring roll for now. But in turning on the oven, I hope to:

    1) Raise the temperature in my kitchen.

    2) Because the temp in my kitchen is raised, i will open my kitchen window, sending 3 beetles flying away from the screen.

    3) Because I sent 3 beetles flying away, The bird that was planning on eating them will have to travel westward for food.

    4) Because the bird flew westward, he ended up taking a poop over Rodeo Drive.

    5) Because The bird took a poop on Rodeo Drive, Jessica Alba slipped and fell on the poop, legs up in the air revealing her vajay.

    6) I then jump in between her legs, shielding her love tunnel from the prying eyes and lenses of the paparazzi.

    7) My selfless act of keeping her vagina’s privacy leads to an intense make out session, marriage, and perhaps a 3 film deal, in which I convince the Coen Brothers to make a sequel to the Big Lebowski starring myself as Maude and Lebowski’s love child. Life is good.

    • Not if I get to Rodeo Drive first! Kiss this, Phat B!

      No, no. I will respect the tides and turnings of cause and effect. By all means, heat up your kitchen. And then heat up Jessica Alba’s bedroom.

  18. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Simon,

    You do get a pass because you are an essayist, and the job of an essayist is to encourage people to think. That includes encouraging smart-alecs like me to spray zerberts. My true ire is reserved for those whose aim is a reduction against thinking. I think I once heard of a Republican senator invoking chaos theory as an argument that there’s anything we try to do to improve the environment is just as likely to wreck it worse. Man, now I’d love an actual reference, bug Google isn’t helping…

    Anyways, interesting that you bring up Chatton. I must admit I never felt that Chatton was actually disagreeing with Ochkam. Either that or my poor brain couldn’t handle the subtlety of his distinctions, many of which seemed more like quiddity than anything else. I know that Ockam considered him a worthy correspondent, and even revised his work pursuant to Chatton’s critiques, but it always seemed to me that he was more tightening a few leaky codicils than overturning any core principles.

    I do like to point out that Ockham’s genius was largely a matter of how successful he was in subverting the very institution he served, an institution that sniffed for, and cruelly punished any trace of heresy. True, the subversion took ages to bear fruit in the age of enlightenment, but I do think that for example Ockham made Descartes possible. He also did manage to come up with some very original principles, but the famous Razor was pretty much just clawing a bit of common sense from the cosmological legacy of Nicaea.

    • As long as I don’t become a passe-ist, I’m content.

      Really? Chaos theory stipulates that we shouldn’t work to improve the environment? I, too, would love to read that statement. Not that I doubt it occured, just to follow the trail of whatever logic is behind it.

      As far as I know – and I’m paraphrasing here, and please, any more educated philosophy types who are around, feel free to correct me – Chatton’s anti-Razor was based around the idea that there are situations which involve a great number of moving parts, and so to slice them away with Occam’s Razor would be to ignore noteworthy evidence that could lead to a different conclusion (although that could be bastardising Occam’s Razor as it was originally set up and setting it up as something of a straw man)

      Again, I could be wrong in my interpretation of Chatton.

      Also: the word ‘zerberts’ and the phrase ‘tightening a few leaky codicils’ have now entered my vocabulary, and I love them both.

      I really have to sit down and refresh myself on some of the stuff Ockham came up with. It’s been a long time since I bent my brain to that kind of density. Which is a shame.

      • Uche Ogbuji says:

        Until I find a citation my apocryphal senator will just have to be sliced away by the razor, I think 😉

        Your description is exactly how I read the anti-Razor, and clearly illustrates its failure. Ockham carefully cited “necessity”. In effect Chatton was beating up a straw man. It’s as if A says “Thou shalt not kill”. And B says “Well, it would be hard not to kill and all, seeing as you probably strangle millions of aerobic bacteria whenever you draw a breath, and the only way to avoid that would be to kill…yourself…hah hah te hee! Gotcha, didn’t I?”

        That’s all unless (I haven’t read Chatton as well as I have Ockham, and I think a lot of his work was lost until recently,) perhaps the first time Ockham posited ontological simplicity, he happened to go to far, and it was Chatton’s challenge that caused him to add the “sine necessitate” bit. That’s what I meant by generously suggesting that Chatton might just have caused Ockham to clean up leaky codicils. More likely, Chatton was just barmy, but, through reputation, impossible for Ockham to dismiss.

        As for ‘zerberts’ and ‘tightening a few leaky codicils,’ I’m glad to be of service at both ends of the highbrow scale 😀 .

        • What a terrible shame and an undeserved fate…

          Ha! Man. B’s an asshole.

          I’m not sure if Chatton was the whetstone for Occam’s Razor; ‘necessity’ is the key term. While I don’t mean to project, I don’t see Ockham as being the type to ignore such a glaring possibility of alternate explanations; it stands to reason that some situations will have complex causes, and it’s unlikely that Ockham would have thrown every one of those possibilities out the window on a whim, or by oversight.

          I had to look up ‘zerbert’. Time well spent.

  19. Greg Olear says:

    I like this piece a lot, Simon, because it gives us a peak at what lies beneath the debonair and winsome fellow who got booted off his reality show on Week One and who repeatedly failed to boink a comedienne from New Jersey. Obviously, there’s quite a bit, as you proved by going toe to toe with Uche on the comment board. (Astrologically, it’s your Saturn Return taking stuff very seriously).

    And now, onto the content.

    My first thought is the opening of Slacker, which you can watch here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTLiPbtnhvU

    The idea of multiple realities. While it is true that that kiss (eventually) led you to TNB, it may also have been that, had that kiss not happened, you might not have wound up here but elsewhere, or wound up here via a different path. Zoe might not have seen Brad’s ad, which in itself would have negated all those things…but the other possibilities might have been just as good if not better than what you now have (or worse, of course).

    It is all kind of a mind blow.

    • reading this and some of the comments makes me think about what the decisions I make are going to lead to… if I choose this over that, etc etc

      I’ve inexplicably started believing in fate. Well, maybe not inexplicably. You know how pretty much everyone— particularly Simon himself— hated 2009? I’ve decided to forgive it.

      Everthing that I have to look forward to know comes from something that happened in 2009. In fact almost everything positive in my life comes from my dog becoming totally paralysed and dying for no good reason at all…

      It’s strange, it seems to me that there is no such thing as a ‘big descion.’ Everything has the potential to be an important decision…

      I mean I could wake up tomorrow and decide to make a cup of tea. The likelyhood is I’ll make a cup of tea, drink it and post badly structured comments on TNB.

      But I could quite conceivably slip on something whilst holding the kettle and drop scalding water all over my leg, require a trip to hospital and contract MRSA and die.

      I may well have run out of milk, pop to the shops and strike up a conversation with a girl, ask her out on a date etc etc etc until I’m telling people at boring anniversaries the ‘hilarious’ story of how I went to go out for milk and ended up with a wife— excpet my wife will finish the anecdote because we’ll be just that adorable sort of couple.

      Infinite possibilities. I think a lot when I walk, and consequently come up with most of my ideas this way. I could go out to get milk and get an idea out of the blue that turns into a novel that brings me great fame and fortune…

      • Oh, my GOD, 2009. Don’t get me started on that total asshole of a yea-

        But you’re right. You’re entirely right. What happens now is due to what’s happened before (which isn’t to dismiss the idea of free will, but there’s certainly some stage-setting going on), and I guess you have to wait a little while before you can tally up the points and see if you came out ahead.

        Very well put, Jim – everything has the potential to be a good decision. Don’t drop the kettle, however.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Re: 2009. Forget Ockham and Chatton — the answers you seek can be found in the genius of Steve Miller, who wrote, “You have to go to hell before you get to heaven.”

        • I think Miller may have been on a higher pay grade.

          Once, years and years ago, when I was nineteen and broken-hearted (I was often broken-hearted when I was nineteen, always due to a girl I worked with) and walking home from work very, very early in the morning, a friend sent me this in a text:

          Well, if my heart must break,
          Dear love, for your sake,
          It will break in music, I know,
          Poets’ hearts break so.

          But strange that I was not told
          That the brain can hold
          In a tiny ivory cell,
          God’s heaven and hell.

          It’s a Wilde quote. Really hit the spot.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Oh. Jinkers. Nice.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Sounds like an echo of Milton:

          “The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven.”

        • Paradise Lost is on my list of things to read – never got around to it. Apparently Milton has a lot to be said (in some readings) about the character of Lucifer; and his courage and determination in braving the Abyss alone.

    • @Greg: Thanks, Greg. That means a lot to me. As I said to Duke, I think I’m becoming more and more comfortable with taking things in different directions.

      Although, debonair and winsome? I’ll always, always be shallow enough to enjoy that.

      It is all kind of a mind blow. Who’s not to say that there are certain points or crossroads you have to arrive at in life, and you’ll always find your way there, no matter what? Although that’s taking the discussion into more metaphysical terrain than it’s been in.

      If, if, if. It’s a great word, but one that’s rarely useful when applied to the past.

      • Greg Olear says:

        Then you get into the whole Oedipus-trying-to-avoid-his-fate-but-doing-it-anyway business. Which I think has some merit, actually.

        Am I right in describing a person as winsome? Usually that’s used to modify “smile.” Well, you get the idea.

        • I was going to use an episode of Supernatural as an analogue; I feel out-classed. I think it’s an idea with a whole bunch of merit to it as well.

          I do get the idea, and I think ‘winsome’ is OK as a personal descriptor.

  20. Natalie Garonzi says:

    Pashtastic.

    I’m all for wanton lip-locking and the tomfoolery and giddy adventures that ensue.

    Also, the chick integral in steps 5-7 sounds like a dirty hot spunk. I’d totally do her.

    Also, noice one SS.

    • Heh. Pashtastic.

      You’re all right, Garonzi. You’re all right.

      The chick integral in steps 5 -7 is a dirty hot spunk. You should take her out some night. I bet she’d spread for you quicker than a buttered falcon.

      Also, thanks NG!

      • Phat B says:

        You people eat falcons? And butter them?

        • We’d eat eagles if we could, but only because we love the sweet taste of liberty so much.

          I don’t know where ‘buttered falcon’ came from; last night, as I was sitting with two friends/co-writers, one of them was describing, in glowing terms, his own physique. When he got to his chest, he said ‘And pecs like a… like a…’ and I came in with ‘buttered falcon.’

          We then decided that aside from being a good descriptor for a manly chest, a buttered falcon is something that would go very quickly.

      • Natalie Garonzi says:

        How did you know about that name???

        John Cheever even wrote a book about me.. “Hot Buttered Falconer”.

        They edited it and changed the story line a bit. But trust me. It’s about me.

        G-Ronz

        • I always thought that was a typo, and it was about your habit of peering in from people’s second-story patio’s at night while they got it on: ‘Hot Buttered Balconer’.

          You’re a sick lady, G-Ronz.

  21. jmblaine says:

    Beauty & Chaos
    our constant companions

    I concur
    my favorite SSE piece

    Wow TNB Sunday
    post in the afternoon and by early evening
    you’re already bumped from the front page.

  22. Wonderful post, Simon. Got me to thinking. Maybe if I can find out a way to make out with a butterfly, and it starts flapping its wings, and I start flapping my arms, then maybe some amazing things can happen. I mean *truly* amazing.

    We’re talking way beyond freaky weather conditions. We’re talking cosmic. We’re talking altering the very stars, planets, and DNA. We’re talking all the right conditions to get you back out here to California, my friend.

    • Thanks Rich. I’m going to see if I can find you a giant butterfly in the jungles of South America or something.

      Alternately, the next time I make out with someone, maybe I’ll start flapping my arms. On the one hand, to see if I can set something in motion, on the other, just to see what their reaction is.

      The stars, the planets, and DNA? Sounds like my kind of party.

  23. Gloria says:

    I loved this. I’ve thought about all of this inter-connectedness on some level since I was old enough to start formulating thoughts. While my friends were all riding skateboards and listening to The Dead Milkmen, I was sitting wondering what it all means. I’m a hootenanny. I regularly do the Single Mom Worry Scaredy-pants Dance, and so I try to stay in the Now. But, when I project into the unkown, scary future, I actually take heart in this thought: I don’t know what’s going to happen. I could be hit by a bus (it’s always a bus, isn’t it) or I could hit the lottery or I could finally write a book that people will buy. Anything could happen. And this thought is just as comforting as it is scary.

    Great post.

    Now: did you just offer to make out with me?

    • Thanks Gloria – I’m glad you loved it.

      That damn future. I’ve had my issues with it, in the past.

      And it’s true, we just don’t know what’s going to happen. I take some comfort in that too, as well as realising that it’s something to be wary of – best laid plans, and all that.

      Now: sure did!

  24. Simon,

    How weird is it that I was JUST thinking (the other day) about Chaos Theory?

    Coincidence…or your eponymous Effect again?

    I was even thinking about writing an essay and entitling it “Chaos Theory.”

    I had no knowledge of your essay at that point…

    Curiouser and curiouser (and nice writing!).

    Liz

    • God, how I love my Effect. And yet, she so rarely follows my whims. Instead, she just turns up at odd hours wearing very little, or sometimes calls me to say ‘I’m in town. Let’s get a drink,’ and hangs up leaving me to trawl the bars in hopes of finding her.

      Curiouser and curiouser indeed.

      And thanks!

  25. Sarah says:

    I can backtrack my life and find that one exact moment, and yes it was a kiss. However, this moment was the one that steered the course of my life away from being able to understand most of what the hell all y’all are talking about here. Of course, that moment, that kiss, led me down the path that gave me my children.

    My ex-husband and I worked together at a bar. After not so subtly flirting for a few months we went to shoot pool one night after work. When he dropped me off afterward he kissed me. That was it. I pretty much blew off the rest of college and barely more than a year later we were married and Xavier was born. I let my brain stop learning and taking interests in things and became a mom doing any menial job to make money for her family.

    I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about strings of events in our lives that lead us to now. I’ve always also believed that we are the sum of our experiences. However, lately I’m trying to separate those experiences into two categories: Events that change our lives that happen to us, i.e. passive ones we don’t actively participate in or seek out, and the conscious decisions we make, choosing A over B. I’ve been thinking of these things because I’m at a point in life where those decisions and those events have come to a head and placed me in a present situation that is difficult and unpleasant and it’s important for me to be able to acknowledge, accept, and rectify my active part in it all.

    So I guess where I am in life is here: That butterfly did not flap his wings and those tornadoes ripped up the Midwest. I’m standing here with the shattered remains of my house and my storm frightened children and we’re staring face-to-face with that same butterfly. I now have the opportunity to show that butterfly the damage he caused with his decision not to flap and he has promised not to waste this second chance he has been given. This time, he will flap his wings and my kids and I will enjoy the sunny, cloudless day.

    (Hey, if you can get all serious and shit, so can I. Great post, Simon.)

    • Yep, there’s definitely a divide between passive and active. For instance, what about something that happened to someone else that then in turn set them on a course to have an effect on you? You weren’t involved in the decision-making process, and yet…

      I know what you mean about the tornadoes. Right now I’m desperately clicking my heels and shouting ‘There’s no place like home (and I’ve got a big bag of money)! There’s no place like home (and I’ve got a big bag of money)!’

      I think we should chat some in a less public arena, as we’ve been talking about doing. I like to think that, given the power of the butterfly, he can send things quite the other way.

  26. Jessica Blau says:

    How does this work?:

    1. Because I love reading Simon’s posts, and Simon is Australian, I love all Australians.

    2. Because I love Australians I want to take a trip to Australia, a place I’ve never been.

    3. Because I plan on visiting Australia . . .

    Ah, the rest open to the flaps of a butterflies wings and the great good luck that I, too, have not been hit by a car, struck by lightening, kidnapped by terrorists, run over by a runaway streetcar, attacked by an unleashed rabid pit bull, etc.

    Fabulous post Simon!

  27. Kimberly says:

    1. Because I went to Australia, I feel super-cool to know first-hand about things like flat whites and prawns (not shrimp) and chicken chips.

    2. Because I know about chicken chips (and because prawns and flat whites are impossible to ship) I got packages of food from down under with not only my beloved chicken chips, but new-to-me Tim Tams and Jaffas.

    3. Because of the Jaffas and Tim Tams (and the ridiculously sized multi-pack of chicken chips I received) I am wearing Spanx on a daily basis in order to appear socially acceptable (sans ‘muffin-top’)

    This Butterfly Effect can suck it.

    • K-Dub! You’ve been to Australia? When were you planning on sharing this information? Unless it was at 2010-01-19, 09:55:34.

      We have to talk about everything now. Especially as flat whites are my favourite. Where were you? How long for? When and why and how and who and etc, etc?

      The Butterfly Effect, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to bend itself well to our purposes.

      Yet.

      • Kimberly says:

        I thought I’ve mentioned my stay on your fair continent… hm.

        A few years ago, I spent 10 days on the Gold Coast – between Brisbane and Bundaberg, but mostly in a little town in the Mary Valley called Gympie (for a film festival) and then managed to sneak off for a few days of diving and sightseeing.

        However, I managed to miss any major cities or usual touristy destinations (which truth be told, is my favorite way to travel) so eventually, I would like to go back and hook up with pals in the major cities.

        OMG – if I could find a place in Brooklyn that served a proper flat white, I think I’d cry with joy!

  28. “At the same time, it’s also just a kiss.” Yes indeed, but this piece is not simply a piece, Simon. It’s magic.

    • Thank you, Robin. I must say, I’ve been really delighted with the responses to this piece that I’ve been getting. This and another piece I wrote a while back, On Change, both seem to have struck a chord with people, which is always nice to think of.

  29. Coming late, but man did I like this a lot. You know, the thing is, even with the math and the physics, even the people who study chaos don’t actually know what they’re talking about; they just sound smarter. Because really, that cannon and its ball may be a linear system, but it can’t exist in one; who’s firing it? For what reason?

    On a big enough scale, all systems tend toward chaos, but just because we don’t see the order doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Heisenberg might have been able to achieve more certainty were he smaller (and faster).

    Really nice post, sir.

    • Hey, thanks Will. Glad to hear it. Good point on the existence within a chaotic system – I hadn’t thunk of that before now.

      That’s exactly my argument – just because we don’t see the order doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

  30. […] Simon Smithson waxes metaphysical…and David S. Wills waxes Poe-etic. […]

  31. a. Fucking LOVE this. Funny as always but beautiful and elegant too. SCIENCE.

    b. The SSE rolls on. You probably don’t remember, but two weeks before you wrote about blowing a definite shag with a girl in Melbourne, I wrote about blowing a definite shag with a (different) girl in Melbourne. Well, one of the notes in that piece reads “Shoulda. wouldn’t be here now, butterfly effect” – meaning that if I had made an effort and scored in 1998 I wouldn’t have landed in hospital in 2003.

    c. I have unknowingly done your bidding and been on two dates this week, both of which ended with very enjoyable snogs. I am 38.

    • a. Thanks, Steve! How good is fucking science?

      (as a note, I’ve noticed this seems to confuse foreigners – sorry, ferreners. As a way of stipulating how passionately we feel about things, Australians like to ask this form of rhetorical question. So: ‘How good is fucking science?’ = ‘I think science is quite a good thing.’

      Beautiful and elegant? Thank you. I appreciate it.

      b. That damn butterfly effect. It’s so hard to see it coming. There’s actually a quote from a Denzel Washington flick, Fallen, that I like:

      There are moments which mark your life; moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same, and time is divided into two parts: before this, and after this. Now sometimes you can feel such a moment coming; that’s the test [or so I tell myself]. I tell myself that at times like that, the strong people keep moving forward anyway…no matter what they’re going to find.

      c. Nice. Now if only I can get people to knowingly do my bidding…

  32. Brits do that rhetorical thing too (“How good is THAT?”). A terrible band called A (yes, just “A”) did a terrible album called How Ace are Buildings?

    I’m quite partial to fractals, it’s a shame they were traduced by the trance massive in the ’90s. I especially like those peculiar cauliflowers.

  33. There is a magical quality to the cosmos. You captured it.

    I’m sorry I’m so late to the game. In my hiatus I have missed hundreds of pieces. I’m glad I finally looked at this one and that we’re all so connected in our strange way, through words and our mutual drive toward success in the arts.

  34. Richard Cox says:

    I’m sorry to say I missed this when you posted it, due to me working on a writing-type project that consumed all of my time, but this is my all-time favorite post of yours and one of the best I’ve ever read on the site.

    I loved Uche’s comments for reminding us that popular descriptions of complex scientific theories don’t necessarily mean we have captured the essence of these ideas. I also liked that he gave you a pass for being an essayist. I approach writing about these concepts in the same way you do, which is to bring them to an audience that otherwise might not normally encounter them in a typical day–with the full understanding that they are oversimplified. A lay audience (myself included) wouldn’t get very far in an academic text on most physics theories, so this is the way we are able to digest them. And we must caution against reducing theories to philosophies, an example of which is the terrible documentary film “The Secret.” But for me, and I think you would agree, the risk is worth the reward of enthusiastically sharing the ideas with friends and readers alike.

    Thank you for posting this. I hope I don’t miss any more of your pieces.

    • Thank you, RC. I appreciate that. It was actually one I really enjoyed writing, too, and laying all of the pieces into place. One of the best you’ve ever read on TNB? High praise…

      (He’s a gracious man, that Uche).

      I really liked the references to the universe and the similarities between ourselves and our surroundings that you put in your most recent piece (as well as the photo from Planet of the Apes. I’ve found myself drawn to an idea for a piece involving cosmology lately which I’m still ironing out in my head – and I’m doing my research on that one, so the crux of what I’m trying to say isn’t let down by my own fuzzy science.

      I agree wholeheartedly on the importance of not reducing theories to philosophies – and wholeheartedly, as well, on the risk being well worth the reward.

  35. Zoe Brock says:

    why the fat fuck did I never see this post? and why did no one tell me about it???

    does this mean I’m also responsible for you leaving the country and getting obliterated in love????

    I hope so.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I don’t know! And I don’t know!

      The answer is: yes. You and Splat Garonzi.

      When I was trying to work out whether I should go to LA, NY, or SF, I figured: Well, I know Tom in NY, Georgia in LA, Sara in Sacramento (hey! Band name!)… and Zoe in SF. That’s two for SF! There I go!

      So yes, Zoe. It is all your responsibility.

      Also, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus. Stop asking!

  36. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    “I’ll admit my knowledge of chaos theory and related topics is entirely abstract and hugely general, with no basis in physics or mathematics.”

    Knowing you in the human world and reading this now, I just laughed so loud over this sentence that I’m pretty sure my neighbor, who I hear futzing around in the kitchen of his adjacent apartment just on the other side of this wall, he hears me. He’s jealous. I’m having so much fun.

  37. Clarissa Olivarez says:

    This is such a beautiful piece. I love how you bring out the poetic aspects of theories that are so very complex and formulaic. I’ve always been fascinated with the chaos theory, quantum mechanics, fractals, and the like. The wonderful thing about this piece is that it’s not only accessible, but very much alive. Great post!

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