Of bits and butterfly effects

Butterflies adorn the side of a building in Santiago, Chile.

I've never been so vain as to think I'll have much impact on the world. I never wanted to be president. I never wanted to be a doctor. I'll almost assuredly never go to war to fight for my freedom and the freedom of others. Way too much responsibility.

Instead, I grew up making virtual things. Apparently, even making physical things was too much. I push bits around as if I'm doing something productive. It's like a reflection of what I see of the grand scheme of things. It's all rather fleeting.

My children are not of my own making. They do not have my genetic material. I was there when they were born and I have continued to shape their lives ever since, nudging them in one direction or another. We are influenced by so many people over the course of our lives. I may have been one of the first but certainly not the last to have an impact on my children.

I have no grand vision of saving the world. I don't expect to be written about in the history books for centuries to come. At some point, we're all forgotten. Most sooner than later.

I recognize that looked at through a certain lens, this can all seem rather bleak. "Why bother?" you might ask. "Do something great," you might say.

Life comes and life goes and that I have but a brief moment in the long chain of time to enjoy that is amazing. That I get to live the life I've led (and hope to continue to lead) is amazing. That I have a modicum of influence on anybody is amazing.

To bastardize BSAF's marketing of yesteryear, "I don't make things, I make things better." I've never considered myself very original. I just try and put the pieces I have together in a slightly different way than before. I show others what I do in hopes of inspiring them to make things a little better.

Every email of thanks that I have received, the collective of virtual bits, has been an affirmation of that. Having someone tell me how one thing that I did has influenced their life for the better is deeply gratifying. It's a confirmation that I have indeed nudged the universe—even if just in some small, tiny way.

And so I'll go on pushing my bits around. Each bit I change has an opportunity to nudge someone else to change, hopefully for the better.

Published November 10, 2011
Categorized as Personal
Short URL: http://snook.ca/s/1006

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13 Comments · RSS feed
Cesar Figueroa said on November 10, 2011

I feel like, collectively, those of us pushing their virtual bits around are making a much larger dent than one man could ever make on their own. Proverbs 27:17 certainly stands true to this: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Thanks for sharing that, Jonathan!

John Faulds said on November 10, 2011

I can't think of specific examples but I've definitely benefitted from reading your blog over the years so now seems like an appropriate time to say thanks. :)

Tom said on November 11, 2011

Your line "I just try and put the pieces I have together in a slightly different way than before." reminds me of the "Everything is a remix" video, part three

Oliver said on November 11, 2011

A beautiful post. Just like "Unsure" a few days ago. Thanks!

Adriaan Nel said on November 11, 2011

You should definitely write a book, I'd buy it. When I consider how much of what you've done influenced me in web design, I am truly humbled when I think of how little I've influenced anybody compared to you, and if this is how you think of yourself, how should I not think of myself?

Nathan McLaughlin said on November 13, 2011

Thank you for the bits you've pushed my way.

Machine said on November 19, 2011

Great! thanks for the share!

Rumah Dijual said on November 23, 2011

thanks for the sharing

Chris J. Davis said on November 27, 2011

Nice man, this is a great post, and reflects what a lot of us feel I think.

One thing to say though, your children will change the world. It doesn't matter if they are yours by birth, or by providence. Every child we release into the world as adults changes it, hopefully for the better.

I know that is what I hope for with my son. To give him a world that is better than I received it, and to give the world a person, one that is better than the person who is giving him.

gammad said on November 28, 2011

good.thank you for share.

Nona said on December 12, 2011

Nothnig I could say would give you undue credit for this story.

Rosabel said on December 17, 2011

Ah yes, nciely put, everyone.

cdgugseak said on December 18, 2011

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Sorry, comments are closed for this post. If you have any further questions or comments, feel free to send them to me directly.