Butterflies are the Puppeteers of the Universe

“In the infinitely ramified web of actions that bind the universe in causality, our lives are only a tiny segment of the finest gossamer thread.”


How did I come to be this way? How did I wind up traveling the world, posted up at the moment in a hostel on Bali? How was my character forged from the winding navigations of my life?

Why am I not paying bills, applying for mortgages, making wedding plans, or changing diapers? Why am I not preparing for another day at the office like many of my contemporaries? The choices we make in life form links in an endless chain of causation. Every link is explained by those that came before, and is an explanation for all that follow.

There are all the trivial proximate choices made from day to day, week to week, that have lead me here. I’m sitting at this table because I walked downstairs to write this article. I live in this hostel to recover from a re-injured back. I’m in Indonesia because it’s north of Australia where I traveled to visit old friends. And the southern hemisphere is where I began this world tour because of its geographic appeal.

But the major causes that diverted the entire course of my life stand above these like mountains over sand castles. Traveling became my greatest passion back in 2012 because it provided salvation from a dismal existence back home. And that existence was only the miserable end-product of boiling for years in the slow cooker of adolescent melancholy.

In effect, I’m here now because a decade ago my life plunged into a phase of depression that would chew me up and ultimately spit me out onto the open road. Go figure.

If I hadn’t been so lonely years ago, my life would certainly be drastically different. If I’d fallen in love in college I might have taken a desk job back home. If I’d found fulfillment in the diversions of American culture, perhaps a sense of community would have rooted me to my homeland.

Tiny alterations in the course of life can have enormous impacts down the line. Indeed a butterfly’s whim can erase empires, dethrone kings, save lives, or bestow love and fortune. Gone another way, I might be an accountant who lives to spearfish. I might be a physical therapist who goes skeet shooting on the weekends.

The fantasies of different lives are pure conjecture. But the vast differences of character and life-path that are narrowly avoided by whim, and blithely obliterated by choice, are true and undeniable.

We are all connected in a ramified network of cause. All things are connected. We are connected to each other laterally by the culture we share. To our parents by how they raised us, to our grandparents by how they raised them, and to our great grandparents along the same strand of causation. Thus we are connected to the histories of our nations. We are connected to humanity itself through the progression of those nations. To nature and its 3.8 billion year history by our origins from it, and thus to the Earth, the solar system, and the cosmos itself.

This subtle truth should enrapture us all in an ecstasy of community. We need never feel lonely or isolated. But many people are blind to large sections of this network. Perhaps some know little of their parents’ upbringing. Some never study the formations of societies, the evolution of species, and the catalysts of planetary formation. Others might abjectly deny the preordained nature of their lives. So these people feel a fundamental separation, a vague loneliness that is all too often soothed by religion or spirituality.

Mystic explanations never satisfied me though. Allaying acceptance of those ancient interpretations accorded a simple, albeit hard-learned, paradigm the time to develop. A paradigm rooted in intellectual honesty, that doesn’t welter in contradiction or invoke the supernatural, and that doesn’t precipitate the moral poles of good and evil.

It is difficult to structure a belief system around causation. The reason for that is that the majority of the countless branches of cause lie in obscured to us. Those countless branches are unknowable in their number and in their subtlety. With knowledge we can illuminate a few layers of them. But we mostly wander hopelessly in the dark like a near-sighted mole rat in the labyrinth of the universe’s machinations.

What we can illuminate, given time and focused study, is the main trunk of causes that constitute our own lives. Let the question ‘why?’ be an engine driving you up the chain of causation that links all that exists to who you are. To truly know yourself is to know the world. There is no boundary between.

Learn about your parents’ lives, their upbringing and their journey. This is the single greatest method of ironing out all those psychological kinks dragged along from childhood. To understand who your parents are is to understand why they raised you the way they did. It is to identify the trees they planted in your mind, and the ones that grew unwittingly in the soil made fertile by their best intentions. Learn about your parents to understand yourself better.

Learn about your culture, its evolution through the decades, and the historical footprints it has left in society’s wake. You’ll understand your cultural biases that are otherwise invisible in their mass acceptance. You’ll transcend the arrogance of absolutism, and be free to adapt to a world ever in movement towards new definitions of justice, equality, and civility.

Learn about the progress of your society, its origins in the agricultural revolution, and its spread from the fertile crescent. Learn about how and why it consumed more primitive societies in its steady march across the millennia. Doing so bestows an unbiased understanding of how the vestiges of primitive societies came to exist today; societies like the Aboriginals in Australia, the First Nations of Canada, and the Native Americans in America.

This will chop pride, and lay the seeds of humility, as you’ll see that the distribution of natural resources across the world thousands of years ago contributed far more to the power of nations today than any inherent superiority of worldview.

Learning about the progress of society grants an understanding of the predominance of major organized religions today. Their prevalence is not a result of correctness, but a natural consequence of society’s advance, no different than a cart tied to the strongest horse.

Learn about the evolution of species, the formation of planet Earth, and the origins of the cosmos. Along with this knowledge grows a fellowship with all other animals, plants, and organisms that cohabit Earth. There is a beautiful continuity that extends from the atomic to the cosmological. Grasping the spectrum of interactions at every scale outlines our role in the choreographed dance of the universe.

We can glean a supreme self-acceptance from understanding how and why we are the way we are. Once this chain is known, we can navigate free of our plaguing self-doubt and insecurities, our loneliness and isolation.

Rid of those crippling weights, we can make a more concerted effort to affect the world around us positively. The world needs whole people, empowered people, awake and alive. A society full of people just getting by, barely managing to cope with reality, will never change for the better. We need people who’ve reconciled themselves, who accept the world as it is, and who’re capable of stepping up to improve it.

The Infinite Cause philosophy is the author’s origin story. It answers the mythic question “How did we get here?” And it does this in an elegant way. This philosophy also shines its blazing torch into the future, hinting at where I am heading as an individual as well as where humanity itself is heading.

In an infinite chain, every moment is simultaneously the ultimate summation of the universe and its inciting spark.

Thank you for reading.


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