THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT – ELLIN CURLEY

I am fascinated with the concepts of time travel, parallel universes and the Butterfly Effect. Fortunately for me, there are several TV shows today that deal with these things. One is Timeless and another is The Flash. The Flash is a Marvel comic based series in which the hero can run so fast that he can bend time. He can move both forward and backwards in time. Timeless follows a government team of time travelers who have to keep going back in time to prevent the ‘bad guy’ from messing with major past events and drastically changing the timeline.

In both of these shows, each trip back in time results in an altered present. In each, a seemingly random individual who is important to one of the main characters, is either dead in the present or was never born and no longer exists in the present timeline.

This brings up the Butterfly Effect, a theory popular with time travel enthusiasts. The theory, mostly used in science, states that a small change can result in a large, unrelated change down the road. In everyday life, this means that unimportant decisions, like whether to go out to dinner or eat in, can lead to very different ‘storylines’ in your life.

There is both a movie and a play that depicts the parallel universes created by a minor life decision. The movie is “Sliding Doors” from 1998 and stars Gwyneth Paltrow.

It tracks the different careers and love lives that the heroine would have if she a) catches a particular subway train or b) misses the train. For example, if she catches the train, she also gets home in time to catch her boyfriend in bed with another woman. If she misses the train, she also misses this tryst. Her life takes very different paths depending on that fluke of timing.

butterfly-effect-cartoon

The play was a musical called “If/Then,” starring Idina Menzel. The show follows the heroine’s parallel lives if she either chooses to go to lunch with friend ‘A’ or if she chooses to go to a play with friend ‘B’ instead.

Interestingly, in both the movie and the play, the heroine ends up with the same ‘love of her life,’ just at different times in her life. Her career paths diverge but I think most people like to believe that some people are ‘destined’ to be together.

The Jewish concept of ‘Beshert’ says that every soul is a half soul and that there is another person in the world who is their perfect ‘other half’. So in time travel shows, many aspects of life are allowed to be affected by chance. But we don’t seem to want to accept that chance can also change the big things in life, like true love.

TimeTravelSome time travel writers have a different theory. They talk about the fact that the past ‘resists’ change. Rather than believing in the Butterfly Effect as it relates to time travel, many believe that at least the major events in history are more predestined and less susceptible to change.

It might seem easy to keep a major past event from happening, especially if small changes in the timeline can eventually result in big ones. But time travel writers feel events, like WWI, the assassination of JFK, or the sinking of the Titanic, will always find a way to happen, no matter how hard you try to prevent it.

You might want to read Stephen King’s brilliant book “11/22/63” about attempting to go back in time to prevent the JFK assassination. It was also made into a mini series, but the book is much better.

I guess it is easier to accept the idea that relatively small things, like the details of an individual’s life, are changeable and not ‘meant to be.’ Maybe this is because on a small-scale, cause and effect is more linear and knowable. On the other hand, historians are still arguing about the multiple and interrelated causes of the Civil War.

delorean time machineMy grandfather was hit by a truck and killed when he stepped off a curb too soon at the age of 88. I used to obsess about what led him to that exact spot at that exact time. I used to imagine the tiny things he could have done differently that would have gotten him to that spot even a second earlier or later.

For about a year after that, I would imagine each time I reached a curb, that it could be my last moment on earth — if the stars were so aligned. Maybe this is the root of my love for some of these theories.

18 thoughts on “THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT – ELLIN CURLEY”

  1. I have always been fascinated by time travel and was surprised when Garry and I discovered he was also. The first DVR he brought to me to watch together was “Time After Time.” It’s one of his favorites. If you have NOT read Jodi Taylor’s series of book about time travel -The Chronicles of St Mary’s Series (10 books) – they are both funny and really GREAT time travel stories. I totally love all of them — AND they are funny — most of the time. They are British and St. Mary’s is a secret British agency for Time Travel with crazed historians traveling to major historical events. Start from the beginning.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation. What a perfect combination for me – humor and time travel. Two of my favorite things!

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    1. They made a TV movie out of 11/22/63 with James Franco. It wasn’t as good as we had hoped but it still captured enough of the book to be fascinating.

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  2. Such a fascinating subject. I’ve always been intrigued by the sliding doors concept and how our lives would be if we’d made different choices. I loved the movie Sliding Doors.

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    1. The SLiding Doors concept plagued me for several years. My grandfather was hit by a truck stepping off a curb in New York City. He died six weeks later. For two years, I wondered, every time I stepped off of a curb, if this would be my last step. Or what if Grandpa had stepped off one second sooner, or later, or if he had stopped for coffee a few minutes earlier. I was really obsessed with this for a long time. Not good for my psyche. Hard enough to lose my grandfather under such awful circumstances.

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      1. I can understand how you became obsessed but there comes a point when we just have to accept. In your grandfathers case, that it was his time. Hard as it is for those left. Warmest wishes to you

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  3. Ellin those are certainly thoughts to ponder. My uncle was killed backing his car out of his driveway. It was all about timing and that is true about so many things.
    Leslie

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    1. Read my comment about my grandfather a few replies up from you. Life can literally hang on split second, everyday decisions. Stop to chat on the way to the street. You get to the curb one second sooner or later and your life is different. Grandpa was getting demented and we think he stepped off the curb a few seconds too soon and was hit by a truck. I couldn’t cross a street for two years without thinking if this would be my last step! I was really messed up because of the butterfly effect!

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      1. Hi Ellin. This is a fascinating and very complex concept. All I can say is that if it is possible, and individuals have done it already then our present existence is on short notice.., that is unless there are many simultaneous timelines where we exist at the same time but experience life in a totally different way. It’s mind boggling thinking about it, but that’s what makes us different than most animals. I believe our dogs don’t give a rat’s ass.., at least as far as we know? Basically I think that time travel is just another expression of our need, or desire, to be immortal. Fortunately, getting old with decreased abilities and mobility quickly diminishes any thoughts of going on forever. Now if we could solve the problem of aging.., well then it might even be fun to live for 900years? We could call it “The Methuselah Syndrome”, or something. We humans tend to make up answers for stuff that, as yet don’t exist, or can’t be done.., Yet.

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