a desert butterfly
I was deeply moved yesterday while watching the CNN coverage of the 50th anniversary I Have a Dream Speech in Washington. The presidential tributes to a great hero, the ringing of the freedom bell, the inspiring music were all very beautiful; but the thing that got to me most was a tiny little interaction between one of the news reporters and a woman in the crowd. Most people probably took no notice of it; but, for me, that exchange between those two people was the most significant and inspiring moment of the entire day's events.
The CNN reporter was a handsome young African American man. When the camera focused on him, he was obviously teary and kind of shaky. Something had just happened that deeply affected him. A light rain was falling and a few moments before he was supposed to go on air, he noticed an older Black lady sitting in the crowd without any rain protection. So he approached her and offered his umbrella. The older lady turned to him and gently said, "No, honey, I survived the fire hoses that were turned on me back in the day of the Selma March, a little rain's not gonna hurt me."
The reporter could barely tell the story. After all, he was an African American who had achieved significant status as a"well-respected national news journalist. " He was barely able to get out the words: "It is because of her that I am here today."
At first I thought it was mostly hyperbole. He didn't become a respected reporter "because" of that one woman who suffered the degradation of being sprayed with a fire hose 50 years ago. But the more I thought about it, I realized it wasn't hyperbole at all. In fact, the suffering of that one woman who long ago willingly put her life on the line for the cause of justice was "directly" related to that young man's current status in today's society.
Every morning I sit in my office as I write this blog and I look out the window onto my meditation garden. Every day I watch the humming birds at my feeder, and every day I enjoy the butterflies fluttering around the desert flowers in the garden. In fact, as I write this, a butterfly is out there flapping its wings.
Whenever I watch the butterflies, I am reminded of an image that had a deep effect on me when I first started reading and thinking about "chaos theory" many years ago.
Because everything and everyone in the cosmos is dynamically interdependent and interconnected, the simple flapping of one butterfly's wings in Tibet might ultimately lead to a hurricane swirling over the Atlantic and hitting a specific spot on the New York City coastline. Conversely, without the flapping wings of that one particular butterfly, the hurricane would not have hit where it did- there may even have been no hurricane at all. The phenomenon is called the "Butterfly Effect."
So yes, I think that a woman who endured the brute force of a fire hose for the cause of justice 50 years ago could indeed be the "fluttering wings of a butterfly - having a direct effect on the eventual rise to power of a handsome young African American man in the national news media. That reporter was exactly correct when he teared up and blurted out: "It is because of her that I am here today."
The cause of justice has hardly yet been won in our own times in this land or in any lands anywhere. We still live in a society where the "haves" lord it over the "have-nots," and where respect for the dignity of every human being is not even close to being the ethic of the day.
Perhaps we think that our tiny little lives can have no effect in making the world a better place - no influence in bringing about a more just society. But we all have butterfly wings and even the tiny little flutterings we produce today can dramatically affect what the world will look like 50 years in the future.
A butterfly is flapping its tiny wings outside my window. I wonder where and when the storm will hit?