The Butterfly Effect and the Non-Linearity of Time

“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world” (The Butterfly Effect, 2004 movie)

the-butterfly-effect-armless
A scene from the movie “The Butterfly Effect” in which the protagonist (Ashton Kutcher) wakes up missing both his arms, after having gone back in time to save a friend from an unfortunate accident. Instead of his friend getting hurt, this time it was him.

Should time not be linear, the butterfly effect would be irrelevant and it would simply seem as though cause-and-effect were real. But if cause-and-effect were not real, then how would anything get done? Where would motivation fit in?

Do the butterfly effect and the time not being linear fit together? Or are they like water and oil: not one to mesh well… or at all. Though I wonder with if time weren’t linear, would the cause-and-effect still exist, or could you potentially change the past without creating a new future?

I, Billy Pilgrimwill die, have died, and always will die on February thirteenth, 1976” (141)

Billy Pilgrim’s death could not be changed, no matter what he did, and no matter how hard he tried, Butterfly Effect or not. Perhaps he was able to change small bits of conversation or other trivial matters, but in the end, it all lead to the same conclusion.

With Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim’s life in all the different stages of time didn’t seem to affect one another. Yes, he remembered the past, but the stages in his life were very distinct: Billy in war, Billy as an optometrist, Billy at home with his daughter, Billy in the hospital… But when he jumps forward, whatever period he jumps to seems exactly as he left it, even if he was in the past before.

Could it be that our lives are pre-written for us, and even as we jump forwards and backwards in time, we are simply living out what has, in fact, been set in stone? It is hard to tell because Billy never went to the exact same moment twice. Even if it was the same year, day, hour, we always picked up where we last left off. Perhaps Vonnegut did this because it would be boring to see Billy living out the exact same moment over and over again. Still, it could’ve hopefully brought us closer to the answer of whether cause-and-effect has any correlation with the non-linearity of time, and by extension, the butterfly effect.

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