The Butterfly Effect

"What if..." it is something we often pondered. What if this event did not happen? What if the result was the other way around? What if something else has occurred on that day?"

The Butterfly Effect Watched The Butterfly Effect (Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, directed by Bress and Gruber) on DVD with Vivian on Tuesday (thanks to Grace for lending it to us). It has been one of the more enjoyable yet profounding movie that I have watched recently, and I highly recommend it. The acting is okay. Ashton Kutcher was casted in the lead role "Evan", but I think it was probably an easier role than other supporting roles who have complete different personalities in different parallel realities. There ain't much special effect either. The blurring visual effect when Evan's old journals were read was cool, but that was about it. However, The Butterfly Effect has an interesting storyline.

Evan is someone who has frequent mysterious blackouts during his childhood, and every time that happened, he would lost that part of his memory. In his college years, accidentally he discovered by reading his old journals, he could go back to the past where the memory was lost, and subsequently change what actually did happen. However, small change in the past results a completely different future, and most of the time it is for the worse...

Interestingly this movie has two distinct endings. The theatrical ending was a happy ending. After a few failed attempts that made the life even worse, Evan has finally made one good decision which even though made him and Kayleigh strangers in the future, everyone else turns out to be just fine. The director's cut ending on the DVD was, however, much more thought provoking and impactful, and in my opinion a better version of the two. Instead of travelling back to the time when Evan and Kayleigh first met, he went all the way back to his mother's womb, following the footsteps of his two other still born siblings, and choking himself with his umbilical cord to death, so that nothing about him will ever happen in the future.

It was a sad ending, but I found it a much well done closure than the weak happy ending. It followed the flow of the story, where more Evan wants to change the past, worse it will become. It explained how his mother lost his two other still-born siblings, as they too made the same decision to go back to the past to end their lives. Moreover, it reflected what his father, Jason, has said in the psychiatric unit - this ability of changing the past is not a gift, but a curse. "You can't play God! You are not a God!" Jason yelled out.

Indeed we cannot play God as we are mere mortals, and Jason was absolutely right on this point. However, very often we wish that we could be in Evan's shoes, having abilities to change events in the past. "What if I choose that job instead of this one?" "What if I went to a different university?" "What if I stayed on the Gold Coast instead of coming to Sydney?" But instead, one should have asked, how would God guide me in my current situation?

We all reject the ruler - God - by trying to run life our own way without him. But we fail to rule ourselves or society or the world.

Two Ways to Live Box 2.

That very point makes the happy ending unrealistic. At the end Evan burnt all his journals, trying to make a point saying that he would not go back and change the past anymore. Did he forget that he had just done it through watching a home-made video? Sooner or later, he would find something that is not perfect in his life, and he would try to use his ability to "rectify" this imperfection again. Well, as a sinful man I know that I would!

"Butterfly effect" is used to explain situations where a small change in the initial condition can lead to a greater change in the outcome. The often used analogy to explain this concept is that a large scale storm can be caused by wing flapping of a butterfly far away. Personally I do not see this kind of explanation appropriate due to the way it is worded. The analogy should have been like, if this particular butterfly did not flap its wings, that large storm elsewhere might not have occurred. Butterfly wing flapping is a determining factor, but it is not necessarily a significant factor.

But what does the butterfly effect tell us about the world? This world is complicated, and our ability to foresee the future is very limited - weather forecast is one example. You can have the computational power of the entire world, but any unplanned glitch can dramatically change the outcome and render your simulated result worthless.

Yet, God is still in control, and he is the one that sets everything in its place. Like the pattern in the Mandelbrot Set, He is the order of this seemingly chaotic world, caused by the sinfulness of mankind. What all we can do is just humble ourselves before him and put our trust in him, that on the day of Judgement everything will be reconciled.