What are the chances? | Moment's Notice

By Maria Montalvo | Apr 28, 2016
Every morning, I sit at my computer and look at a quote from Tennessee Williams: “Luck is believing you're lucky.”

You have the same chance of being hit by lightning as getting injured at an amusement park – one in a million. We have a 1-in-3 chance of being in a serious car accident in our lives, and yet the same ratio of people are afraid to fly.

Scientists recently determined that the chances of a person dying in a plane crash or being hit by lightning seven times are equal.

More than 30 percent of Americans believe they will be rich someday, but less than 2 percent of households earn more than $300,000 per year.

When making life decisions for myself, I tend to use the guiding mantra of “What are the chances … ” that anything bad will happen?

Every morning, I sit at my computer and look at a quote from Tennessee Williams: “Luck is believing you're lucky.”

Don’t get me wrong, I worry about a myriad of things, from the need for long-term health care to the voracity of the FDIC insuring bank deposits to whether or not my dog is OK at home when I go out to dinner.

Yet, somehow going through life without going out on a limb once in a while actually makes me uncomfortable, especially since I have been pretty lucky so far. There seems to be some underlying order to what happens each day, both good and bad. So many conditions play a role in the odds that govern our existence, and we have no influence, whatsoever, on the majority of them.

Edward Lorenz, a pioneer in chaos theory, did not expect to find that the deeper he looked into very small variables, the more accurately he could see or predict patterns on a large scale.

The theory does not imply randomness, but rather, order outside of the large factors that would seem to have the most influence.

Hence, the use of the lovely “butterfly effect” – if a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, it can cause a tornado in the U.S. The butterfly analogy is appealing on many levels.

It conjures an image of a blur of yellow and black fluttering above your head, creating a whirl of airflow that you can almost see, and that small breeze can compound into a huge vortex.

When bad things happen, and they have, chaos theory only makes more sense to me. It is a way to reconcile the apparent randomness of opportunity that allows or prevents some from trying to realize their dreams, and also that trying to help matters.

It is proven that a single point of contact with a college sophomore who is struggling interpersonally or in need of a loan as small as $50 can influence whether or not he or she will graduate.

The smallest things can keep you going when you are hurting or in trouble. I can handle pain better when I can be alone with a great song. Solace comes from finding something familiar in a verse or getting lost in a melody. Coincidentally, my favorite band, Duran Duran, released their 14th album last year, and the song I play the most is called “What Are the Chances?”

The actual definition of the butterfly effect is: The sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.

It may not mean that we can always create a logical solution for the world’s ills, but it does mean that even the smallest efforts can make an impact. Maybe it also means humanity still has a shot.

If we reach out and take a chance to help someone, each of us could have as much of an effect as a butterfly.

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