Links on Art & Organism web note pages  are intended to complement or supplement lectures, presentations, or on-line notes.  They may also provide a “butterfly of the mind.”  Butterflies are connected to the content on which they may rest but then fly off in unexpected or surprising and hopefully provocative ways.

“The master was telling a parable and everyone had the sense that this was leading to a profound, possibly transformative insight.  He spoke with a musical tone of voice—sometimes solemn, sometimes playful—that drew listeners into the story.  Then, just as the denouement seemed imminent, he hesitated and pointed excitedly in the air:

Look, a butterfly!!

everyone got the point.”

… excerpts from various writings, entire articles or chapters or websites are scattered throughout A&O pages.  Sometimes they are not obviously connected.


“In his early years at MIT in the 1950s, Ed Lorenz studied long-range weather forecasting.” Once when he  “ tried to rerun a computer weather simulation” he punched in slightly different numbers as a result of a rounding error. “He went to grab a cup of coffee, and when he returned, he saw the simulation had diverged wildly from the previous run. … His tiny error didn’t stay tiny, as one might have expected. It grew exponentially larger. Lorenz described his discovery in a landmark 1963 paper.   Much later, “when author James Gleick popularized Lorenz’s work in his acclaimed book, “Chaos: Making a New Science,” he used the term “the butterfly effect” to describe the 1963 paper, which found that weather forecasts are sensitive to small changes in the initial conditions.”  (From Jeremy Deaton’s entertaining essay in the Washington Post Feb. 2, 2020)

“In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state (of a deterministic nonlinear system) can result in large differences in a later state.

This resonates quite nicely with the effect of small neuronal changes leading to large consequences –there are, for example, specific neuronal configurations (usually involving positive feedback) and similarly, activity in a dysfunctional locus in the brain may begin “kindling”—a progressive increase in susceptibility to evoked seizures. [ Kindling & behavioral convulsions ] –remember also that a sneeze is a kind of seizure.

At another level, small events in history might have large consequences.  A very interesting idea, but not as deep and disturbing as it might until encountered on page one of Thomas Wolfe’s masterpiece, “Look Homeward Angel.” (read the excerpt)