Book review: The Butterfly Effect
By David Wilson
Andy Andrews speaks to groups over 100 times a year, and his skill at story telling is one of the main reasons he’s so popular with audiences. One of those stories, The Butterfly Effect, is his most requested, and has now been turned into a book. Just 109 pages long, The Butterfly Effect is a slim book, but communicates a weighty message. The speaker and New York Times best-selling author uses real-life examples to communicate an important principle: the decisions you make and the way you treat others have more impact than you may ever realize.
The book’s title is taken from a scientific hypothesis presented in 1963. It suggested that a butterfly could flap its wings and set molecules of air in motion, which would move other molecules of air, in turn moving more molecules of air — eventually capable of starting a hurricane on the other side of the planet.
Now I’m no scientist, but the whole idea seems pretty fanciful to me. If butterfly wings cause hurricanes, the force of my tire blowing out recently should have caused the planet to be wrenched out of its orbit around the Sun. In the same way, some of Andrew’s accounts seem a bit Bunyanesque. For example, Colonel Vincent Chamberlain, spared a mortal wound when a bullet bounced off his belt buckle during the Battle of Gettysburg, heroically held off rebel soldiers against insurmountable odds (Are there any other kind of odds in war stories?). If he didn’t, the North would have lost the war, the United States would have dissolved, and North America would have turned into a politically fragmented continent like Europe.
In spite of the fact that a number of Andrew’s biographical stories seem like hyperbole, The Butterfly Effect does convey the important message that your life can impact others in ways that are not always immediately evident. I’m reminded of Mordecai’s encouragement to Esther during a time of peril for the nation of Israel:
“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 ESV)
The Butterfly Effect does provide some serious inspiration. But I’ll hold off on giving it a round of applause. I might cause a typhoon on the other side of the globe.
I have never explained why I’ve used a butterfly as a symbol on this blog. It has nothing to do with anything in David’s review or Andy Andrews’ book. Maybe I’ll explain it someday.