Butterflies Observed – Possibilities Emerging? – Who is Thomas Jefferson?

One of my favorite notions from Chaos Theory is the butterfly effect. This notion stems from observation that tiniest inputs into a dynamic system can nevertheless effect direction and outcome. Input such as a butterfly flapping its wings.

It’s pleasant to hear the phrase “butterfly effect”.   Image of a gentle, delicate, beautifully colored butterfly, a sunny day, and flowers, instantly appears. An image of ‘pure innocence’ at work, lovely.

When butterflys exist, and they do, analysts of extremely complex systems can’t predict outcome with certainty. Weather is one such system. Human affairs are another!

It may not have been easily predicted that in the summer of 2009, a group of otherwise ordinary American citizens would become angry and vocal, even disruptive. Their protests aim directly at government mis-management of taxpayer funding.  Think of this group as a single butterfly. This group quotes Jefferson.

They toss Health Care Reform into their list of offenses, or potential offenses. (I happen to disagree with them. I view reform as essential and particularly so in economic terms as householder vulnerability is extreme. I also believe health care is a citizen right, essential to all that matters to this vocal group: capacity to enjoy lives and productivity. I believe pooling dollars and vulnerability, maximizing efficiency of delivery, giving citizens free choice of when and how to use public, non-profit insurance, is the most economically sound program we can offer ourselves, our small business operators – again all that matters to this vocal group. Granted citizen oversight must be firmly in place and active.)

Citizen oversight is essential and is what we (the ordinary citizen) have not been practicing. If warring is curtailed, if corporate health insurance cartels are put out of operation at the same time government excess is brought to heel – we’ll really “have a good thing going.”!

Back to the unexpected (butterfly) citizen uprising. Enter a second butterfly– aren’t they lovely! Keep health insurance in the picture for a minute. There is a group of citizens firmly committed to single-payer. See my personal health reform statements above for a take on this group’s point of view. These citizens are also active and vocal. They have been arrested. They continue to argue, to persuade, to make their case. They are not ready to go away any more than the first group. They quote Jefferson.

Now a third butterfly! This one something of a hybrid of the first two. Folks of this group find statements by Ron Paul important and insightful. They share this with the ‘anti-government’ group. But they also support single-payer in health reform. They are not necessarily anti-government, but want government to use tax money for bottom line essential whole citizen need – nothing more. They quote Jefferson.

Believe it or not, there is a fourth butterfly. Also a hybrid but a different hybrid. Folks of this group have tracked, and developed commitment to,  “best human meaning and practice” as it developed out of “New Age” exploration. This group is inclined to stay out of direct political involvement, but it’s a sizeable group. Some of them blend Ron Paul’s insights with interest in the autonomous individual as a member of the One Universal Family.They observe politics from a distance and across time. They examine political/economic/military based conspiracy (behind the scenes power play). Their facts are worth a listen. They declare “politics as usual” finished. Done. They quote Jefferson.

In an earlier piece “A Nation of Clumps” I lamented the “separating out” of groups from awareness of, interest in, the common weal. I now experience rising curiosity at the passion these groups share for Jefferson! And butterflies certainly appeal to the imagination better than ‘clumps’ !

It happens Jefferson believed in small government, the need to curtail big money interests, and the need for citizens to pool efforts and resources to meet common need. (Given medical practices in his time, it’s hardly surprising “universal health care” was not an available idea!) (Yet another aside – his personal diet emphasized fruit and vegetables with “meat as a small side dish.”! He also thought everyone should at have a garden, should seek to experience profound connection between man and nature, should practice intentional civility and respect toward others … and should know something of philosophy and historyHe was not overly fond of flags or showy nationalism – actually he was a stickler for Principle!)

Asides aside … a connected passion for Jefferson? Hmm … ??? … !!!

Can Jeffersonian thought offer common ground? Can we find ourselves learning about our human condition, about our approach to government, our understanding of economics, our understanding of inherent dangers of “ignorance” if we do not ask questions and seek learning?

Can we use our personal wisdom to ‘marry’ ‘eternal truths’ in the Jeffersonian view with conditions as we find them, local, national, and global, in the 21st Century?

The delight in a “butterfly effect” is that it’s “open in outcome”. Our intent, whatever it is, points us toward a future we maybe can only scarcely imagine todayCan we come together around Jefferson’s legacy?

We are going there (to the future). We might as well take a really long view and decide best outcome, overall, for everyone. We might as well set a goal that inspires us to “be the best we can be”.  Jefferson trusted the capacity for this in the individual. He trusted individuals to stand in independence, but also to support one another in community.  Intended outcome was national well-being.

We might as well be visionary, thoughtful and imaginative, as was Jefferson, when we aim ourselves toward the future.  As we go along, we can measure progress of self, group, and government, in light of our goal, our intended outcome.

Strongly recommended website: http://www.jeffersonhour.org/ (excellent interview style archived podcasts bring Jefferson to life, and much more on Jefferson at this site.)

Jeffersonian thought might be our springboard as well as our touchstone.  I think Thomas Jefferson would be honored. 

(“Good Day to You, Citizen” – website quote) MaggieAnn


About maggieannthoeni

A description once given of me was "rooted in the earth while roaming the stars" - and this has felt 'right'. I believe in something akin to this for each of us. I am a passionate supporter of discovering the autonomous self while serving the whole as primary intent. I believe in discovery of innate principles, clearing the overlay of socialization that obscures this from us. I believe it is our responsibility to leave no one behind - most particularly to respond to suffering as best we can whereever we find it, whenever we are made aware. I believe in this for the insect as well as the most magnificent form of humanity. I believe in brother/sisterhood without boundary. I believe in righteous indignation when it is appropriate, but do not believe in an enemy. I believe in consciousness, in intelligence, in logic, in rationality, in emotion, in transcendence - and am convinced until we generally practice explore and honor all this in ourselves, we remain profoundly immature. (I believe real maturity is known and practiced by many young children, and not enough adults!)
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3 Responses to Butterflies Observed – Possibilities Emerging? – Who is Thomas Jefferson?

  1. Isadore says:

    To butterfly, or not. Just as the flapping of a butterlys wings can iterate down the road into something quite unexpected and significant so can the not flapping of a butterflys wings lead to equally unexpected and significant events. Upon closer examination it becomes clear that the butterfly effect is also a non effect and merely a poetic attempt to amplify the potential significance of insignificant events, if that makes one feel better about their relative unimportance in the cosmic fantasmagordia, then so be it. Now if you want to examine some really significant effects there is ‘the elephant effect’ and ‘the bull in the china shop effect’, just to name two.

    When the Israelite slaves marched out of Egypt into the desert on their epic quest for the “promissed land’ they did not leave Goshen because of a ground swell of little miscontents that built up in their hearts and minds and drove them to rebel against one of the mightiest kings of the age. They were led by one person with a consuming mission who placed them in a position from which they could not retreat, flee to the desert, or stay and be erased by the mighty Egyptian army. Caught between the proverbial hard place and a rock the Israelites followed Moses, grumbling and complaining, muling and puking like the children they were, railing against any and all attempts to turn them into a race of people worthy to inherit a promissed land ‘flowing with milk and honey’. The original generation had to pass away and it was not until their children succeeded them that their goal was won. There may be a parrallel here with the American people and their quest for universal health care, it just may be too much for the present generation to wrap their minds around, I won’t discuss ‘free education’ … free universal education, including trade arts and university … in this little story as considering it would make most Americans heads explode, not that it would’t have the same effect on many Canadian heads.

    Here’s to exploding heads!

    • maggieannthoeni says:

      Ah yes! … the strategy, sometimes one wonders if the only effective one, of waiting for old paradigms to fade due to lack of holders, to make room for newer ones – whether they are brand-spanking new or only “shades” different from the old! I very much appreciate your illustration of point with the Israelite story — Thanks! My own take is that butterflies can have a role, that “real” change develops with a complex dynamic that includes some outright loss of old paradigms, some softening and alteration (“shade differences”) of the old, and some brand new perspectives that may “appear as if from no-where”. These blend into a mix – something “new” emerges. In the meantime, ‘nudging’ helps. I hope! For many years now, I have given humankind “300 years”. I do not subtract years from this figure as I go along. It allows a timeline that keeps me optimistic!

  2. Nathan Schmidt says:

    Good article! Check out:


    (mass-megalomania also good; fullaschmidt follows the noble art of pot-stirring! – MaggieAnn)

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