“The fluttering of a butterfly’s wing in Rio de Janeiro, amplified by atmospheric currents, could cause a tornado in Texas two weeks later.”
— Edward Lorenz
No one can see all the results of his or her actions.
All we can know after we act is the results we experience. No one can possibly foresee all the far reaching consequences of his or her deeds. They are opaque. Just like the butterfly flapping its wings in Rio De Janerio, we can’t know that we might ultimately cause a tornado. We act, then we presume things will go as we expect hoping it will turn out alright.
This may be why we spend so much time doing things that we can see the results immediately. There’s a satisfaction in knowing how things turn out. These things tend to be easy to predict so we fill our days up with the predictable – chores, work, bills, sports, etc. It’s easy to get lost in them and forget that there are actions we can take which may have greater results. We shy away from these, in part, because we can’t see the results.
There is, though, something else we know before we act, which might help us overcome the doubts about the results of our actions – our intentions.
We know what we are trying to do and whether our intentions are noble, altruistic, common, base, or vile.
We also know when we have no intent. We know when we’re about to do something mindlessly. We know because afterwards we realize that we weren’t really thinking about what we were doing, or what the consequences might be to ourselves or others.
My friend, Linda Cohen, author of the book 1000 Mitzvahs, wrote a post about intention, something we discussed over coffee the other day.
“When you set an intention to do something good everyday, you are looking for opportunities and you want to make something good happen and you seek out possibilities.”
Knowing that your intent is to give more helps to offset the opaque consequences of our actions. Intention is a powerful compass with which to guide our moral ship.
Intention is what we know before we flap our wings.
Dropped coins into two red kettles, did the dishes for grandma, shopped thoughtfully for Christmas and helped a woman who had dropped somethings while she was shopping. I’ll probably not ever know what the results of these small acts will be, but I do know my intentions.