Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Butterfly Effect, and Junkmail

 Ingredients:  Rives BFK, Thai unruyu paper, vintage music book page, vintage ledger, 
vintage postage stamps, acrylic ink, Caran d'Ache crayons, ephemera, watercolor pencil.

The butterfly effect is a metaphor that encapsulates the concept of sensitive dependence on initial conditions in chaos theory; namely that small differences in the initial condition of a dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behavior of the system. Although this may appear to be an esoteric and unusual behavior, it is exhibited by very simple systems: for example, a ball placed at the crest of a hill might roll into any of several valleys depending on slight differences in initial position. The butterfly effect is a common trope ( figurative language) in fiction when presenting scenarios involving time travel and with "what if" cases where one storyline diverges at the moment of a seemingly minor event resulting in two significantly different outcomes.  -Wikipedia

The implications of this theory are huge and wide-ranging, so I won't go into them here.  But it does beg the question: Does every action we take really have the potential to influence the world?  Whether it does or not, perhaps we should consider living our lives as if it does.  Because if we did, we might live more thoughtfully, more carefully, more in harmony with everything and everyone.

What got me thinking about this was a post I came across at Trudi Sissons's Two Dresses Studio.   Here's a bit of Trudi's wonderful introduction to The Butterfly Effect OPEN, a project of the Holocaust Museum Houston, in Texas.

The Butterfly Project mandate is to remember the 1,500,000 innocent children who perished as a result of the Holocaust  by collecting 1.5 million handmade butterflies. In Spring 2013, these butterflies will then become a breath-taking exhibition to serve as a memory of this event.

The idea of using butterflies to symbolize the children came from this touching poem, written by a 23 year old man living in a Jewish ghetto, who later died at Auschwitz.

I Never Saw Another Butterfly
The last, the very last,

So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow
Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing
against a white stone....

Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ’way up high.
It went away I’m sure
because it wished
to kiss the world good-bye.

 For seven weeks I’ve lived in here
Penned up inside this ghetto.
But I have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.

Only I never saw another butterfly.
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don’t live in here, in the ghetto.

Written  by Pavel Friedman, June 4, 1942 
Please go to her post to read the details. She has graciously volunteered to collect and send the butterflies to the museum for us.  You can also see all the butterflies that have been collected thus far- really an amazing display.

Here's another small way to make a difference.  Junk mail is something that always makes me angry.  Why should trees be cut down, energy and resources wasted, to send me things I DON'T WANT?  It seems I get the same catalogs and ads over and over; I swear, some advertisers must send out mailings every week!  It also boggles my mind to think how much profit they must be making if they can afford to spend the kind of money it undoubtedly costs to print and mail all of this junk. So I was intrigued when I saw this postcard:

I'm going to try to do this, if only to aid in increasing  awareness of the junk mail problem, as well as contributing to what will surely be an interesting array of art made from recycled materials.  I enlarged this card as much as I could so that you could read it, and participate if you want to; you could win something, too.  For more information, go here.  I'll post my junk mail when I finish it.

Happy affecting, my friends!


  1. I'm so glad to see you've found the Butterfly Project - I haven't done mine yet but the badge reminds me often. Also, the definition of the butterfly effect is heady - I'll have to ponder... :)
    That poem formed a large lump in my heart - maybe a butterfly today?
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. yes,,,really that poem got me the butterfly piece you posted. The junk mail thing...I look forward to your junk mail piece when it is grips my,,,,,when I see how many resources are totally wasted to produce and send out all the junk mail...a sin and shame really. They could take all that time, effort and money and make everything cheaper in their company for one...the list goes on.
    I have a friend in America who takes EVERY piece of junk mail and marks RETURN TO SENDER in big black letters and puts it BACK in the mail box ,,,maybe if more people did that the coompanies would wake up:) that for just one months worth of junk...

  3. Love the idea of the butterfly effect- every thing we do will have an outcome- cause and effect. There actually was a not bad movie about this too.
    As for junk mail- this may be bad but I printed up "No Junk Mail" stickers that I place on peoples letterboxes. All that wasted paper and litter in the street must be stopped.

  4. beautiful Sharmon..I'd heard about this project but forgotten...I love that poem...we used to read the whole book when I was a child.

  5. je ne comprends pas le sens..mais le papillon est très bien..

  6. What a beautiful endeavor on behalf of the Holocaust Museum. This is such a fantastic project! Your contribution looks great and I love that poem!

    Have a wonderful day!
    Gaby xoxox

  7. Beautiful compositions with a very attractive language. I love it.

  8. I very much like that butterfly at the top of this post! Using a human shape in the middle for the body is brilliant.

    The "butterfly effect" is an intriguing concept and, if nothing else, at least prompts one to consider each action and choice as it's being made--ie. to live in awareness.

    I can't stand the waste of paper--trees/resources/money/energy--that producing/sending junk mail involves.

    Thanks for presenting some creative solutions. "Return to Sender" (as mentioned by Cynthia S.) is also a good way to discourage those polluters. Saving colourful bits and interesting lettering from the garbage to add to one's collages helps ease the pain of receiving junk mail.

  9. Patti- I can't wait to see your butterfly!

    Hi Laura- I didn't know that was from a book! how cool!

    Merci, Elfi!

    Gaby- thanks for visiting! I'm glad you like my butterfly.

    Thanks so much, Leovi!

    Louciao- I agree, it's an intriguing concept; I've always wanted to do a piece about the concept itself, but never got around to it- maybe someday soon.

    There's a lot of logging out in the country, where I have property. It makes me sick that we waste beautiful trees for junk that gets thrown away!


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I'm happy to reply here, but may not always have time for individual emails.