Saturday, June 8, 2013

Of Butterflies [The Stroke, the Effect and the Monarch]

It's something I believe. That the world holds miraculous wonders, and in it intertwined relations, treasures and beauties. I don't know why they are there for sure, but I always feel like it is for us humans to learn and ponder.

Butterfly Stroke
When I was 8, I was playing in the pool at Ulu Yam with my brother Naim 6 at that time. We had a family day. Out of boredom for the shallow pool, we decided to switch to the higher ground, deeper pool. No one was watching us. The family day was too happening that no one expected us to climb up higher.

The pool we went then was murky. It's not like a swimming pool, it's just a ground digged filled with water. We did not see the real depth of the pool. We jumped straight away in it. Somehow, Naim stepped into the deeper side of the pool. He screamed for help as his feet weren't unable to feel the bottom of the pool. I at that time managed to stand up felt with my foot where the pool got deeper. Naim was screaming and drowning. I was so afraid at that time. I felt like crying. I later felt the steep part, I grabbed the side of the pool while Naim was slowly drifting away from the side and drowning. He struggled so much. I jumped to him with my hand still attached to the side and grabbed him. He was saved. Alhamdulillah.

Today, it's one of my initiatives to teach people how to swim. During a camping or a jaulah, whenever we are in water I often be asked or voluntarily teach people how to swim. Of course, I never have the coach certificate, but I do learn how to swim out of fear that one day when someone needs help as in Naim's case, I might not be able to save the person. And I could never forgive myself for that. Never.

I often ponder why Rasulullah told us to learn swimming(also riding horse and archery). In my opinion, there are a few important values people acquire along their journey to learn swimming. Adapting oneself, courage, freedom, focus and most importantly, appreciation.

Butterfly : Upper body strength is very important to perform this stroke beautifully.
In swimming, there are four main strokes. Freestyle, breastroke, back stroke, and butterfly. The hardest of all these strokes is butterfly and this stroke is usually learned the last of all four. Fluidity, power and rhythm as mentioned by Philip Toriello makes butterfly stroke the most majestic stroke. This stroke is considered the hardest because it requires both hands and legs to move together, not in alternating pattern of right and left like the freestyle, or leg and hand like the breast stroke. Butterfly requires you to move both simultaneously. And compared to other strokes, this stroke stresses the importance of rhytm, without it your butterfly will be inefficient and out of form. I've already started to learn this difficult stroke as the holiday started. A beautiful point I found on the net and deeply significant for me is when learning this stroke, we must learn to appreciate.

As this stroke is very difficult compared to other strokes, we must learn to appreciate every little part of movements involved in the stroke. The push, the pull, the recovery phase, the dolphin kick, the breathing, the energy management. We must learn to aware what movement contributes to what dynamics, what push moves you forward, how to recover effectively, how to dismiss unnecessary movements. The stroke is so tiring you need to really observe your energy management as your energy is limited. Your efficiency in managing your energy by performing the correct technique optimizes your speed and fluidity in water. Otherwise, you would just be splashing water.

If you observe the body performing butterfly from the side, you will see the rhythm of the body somehow mimics the shape of sine graph. If you perform it correctly, you'll understand why people say it's the most beautiful, majestic stroke ever. For butterfly to come to its shape is not easy, it requires hardwork, discipline, respect and appreciation for every minor and major details of the stroke - and from it comes the beauty, power and fluidity of this superb stroke.

From this stroke, I learn something to relate with my life. I hope I put it out well for you to understand. It's appreciation. Success comes when I acknowledge and appreciate minor and major things in my life, realizing that each of these contributes in my life, one way or another. And to move forward efficiently, dismiss any unneccessary movements that might slow you down or distract you from reaching your dreams. It's so significant for me.

Perhaps because this stroke is very hard and I could only go 25 meters with a nice form. Longer than that my upper body fails to execute the movement really well. And I would telan all the water as my effort to breath also fails. -.-

* It's unlike freestyle or breast stroke where you could go 1-2 kilometers without complete exhaustion, butterfly's a whole different thing. Perhaps it's me only lol. (Here's a video - Olympics Men 4 x 100m Medley Relay where all four strokes in one competition. Watch. It's amazing! Click )

Butterfly Effect
In 1972, Edward Lorenz a mathematician and meteorologist presented a paper titled, "Does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?". As far-fetched as it sound however, the effect is real. The effect is also called sensitive dependence on initial conditions.

Butterfly effect describes how one small change in a system initially can result in a big difference in the end.  Opposed to common sense that small change would only compensate for small difference. Lorenz realized this when he was keying in data in his weather model. He encountered problems earlier and to save time and space, instead of entering 6 digits data he decided to round-off the decimals to 3 digits assuming that the rounding-off makes no significant change.

What he found was surprising. A very small change had altered the outcome by major difference in his model. Later he realized that long-term weather forecasting is impossible due to the nature of the weather. It's because of this butterfly effect that makes predicting space weather is far more easier than predicting our own weather.

While I am eager to share the mathematical aspect of this effect, I am afraid that what I'm trying to share might not get to you. Picture below is an example of butterfly effect. The instrument is called double pendulum. While it is fairly easy for us to predict the motion of a single pendulum swaying fro and forth, when we add another variable, in this case is another pendulum attached to the original pendulum, the predictability becomes significantly hard and the condition becomes haywire and chaotic it results in a fairly complex condition. Another example is like how Sun and Earth interacts ceteris peribus. You can predict the motion of these two bodies fairly easy if you have enough information. But if you add another body, let's say Mars, it becomes a completely different thing. Predicting it becomes hardly possible and hitherto the solutions aren't completely understood. (Read more : Three body problem)

Here, I am not trying to potray that our life is chaotic and frenzy, no. But I'm trying to show you, in life, every single thing small or big act you do, do have effects in your life. Being more serious, good deeds and sins do affect our life. As good deeds bring blessings and tranquility into life, sins make us less sensitive to people and to God. Although we do know that Allah is al Ghaffar and sins can be erased through repentance, we also should know once we do what we do, the effects are already rippling through life.

In a bigger picture, what we do affect other people. Family, friends, Ummah and humanity. The struggle to appreciate every small things we do, to pay attention to big things and observe the incoming ripples stemmed from our actions is tiring. I assure you. But, Rasulullah taught us to observe minor details, both good and bad. Every bit of positive energy injected in the system and vice versa, we are to observe that and not to take it for granted.

Abu Dzar, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Don’t underestimate any good deed, even meeting your brother with a cheerful face.” (Muslim).

To really realize that every action we make is indeed significant, if not in short-term it will be in a longer term, requires consistent effort. To fill in every little space and hole in our life with deeds, even the smallest of all deeds and to dismiss and consciously deal with bad behaviour or mistakes. Rasulullah also mentioned how we as Muslims should observe and avoid underestimating minor sins.

Rasulullah pbuh said: “Beware of sins which are treated as being minor, just like a people who encamp in the centre of a valley, so someone brings a stick of firewood and someone else brings a stick until they are, therefore, able to bake their bread. Likewise, sins which are treated as being minor, and for which the person is taken to account, will destroy him.” [Ahmad]

The realization of small things do bring significant effects in our life is important as it would allow us to be mindful of Allah, to deal with our own desire justly, to become aware of the cause-effect factor in every thing we do in life. I don't intend to depict that sinning is the end and then we are doomed, no. There is hope. If you have injected negative energy, reinject positive energy so that the net energy in your life is positive. As good deed erases sin :) May we be a servant of Allah who is observant and grateful.

Frodo is small yet he saves the world. Be the change.

Monarch Butterfly
At last, here comes the real living butterfly. I think the placement of this wonderful creature as the last of the butterflies is right. I suggest after you read my post, you do further readings on this butterfly. I am afraid that what I am going to share is not sufficient and don't do justice to the monarch butterfly. It's one of the most amazing creatures on Earth, and this is not exaggeration.

Dan Osipov
Why do I say it's an amazing creature? It's because they are the only insect that migrates up to 2500 miles to move to warmer areas! These monarchs migrate to overwintering areas because they could not stand the freezing of winter. Masya Allah. The migration is also caused by the availability of foods for their larvaes, in this case milkweed.

By October or sooner, millions of monarchs will migrate to their overwintering areas. They travel about 25-30 miles per day. Another amazing thing in their migration is, they somehow know where is their overwintering sites. They know where to go.

Apart from that, they also know how to come back when the strangest thing is, it's not the same butterflies that makes the first journey, they are the fourth generation, super grand children of the ones who arrive at the overwintering sites.

Not all of the monarchs are capable to migrate. The first, second, and third generation only live up to six weeks after their metamorphosis. Only the fourth generation live up to six or eight months to enable them to migrate. Allahu Akbar. This generation will embark upon a journey they have never gone before, following only God knows what direction to their away overwintering sites that are thousand miles away. Along with millions of other monarchs, they travel together, struggling through strong winds, bad weather, dangerous and poisonous air, and lastly to adapt when they arrive at their overwintering sites only to know that the sites have been demolished to make way for humans.
Scientists still cannot figure out how the monarchs were able to tell direction. Some postulate that they might have same mechanism as migrating bird, a sensor in their brain to align with the magnetic fields of earth. Some say that they follow the wind. Up till now, no one really knows how these wonderful creature know how to fly thousand miles and end up in the same places as their ancestors were. All Praise to Allah, al Khaliq.

Sadly, many of their sites are now gone. Due to inhuman human activities. The good thing is, citizens of U.S and Mexico are so amazing they decided to start the initiative long time ago, to tag the butterfly and plant milkweed so that these monarchs have a home when they come back.

I'll leave it to you to relate Monarch Butterfly to your life. We are the student of the world, we learn from every thing. And I learn a lot from them.

I am calling all readers to care for our environment. We as a khalifah in this world have a responsible to preserve and care for our forests, animals and other living creatures. I teach Biology and Science at Al-Amin as cikgu ganti, I told my students who are capable, to join a campaign by WWF. You can choose either to adopt a tiger, turtle, orang-utan or a panda. Not more than RM40 a month. You will also get free merchandises and updates of your beloved pet. Most importantly, you save a life.

Start the initiative now! :)

Live your life, learn, and appreciate.

Chase your dreams.

Always be aware of other people's sufferings and hardships.

Have a nice day! :)

p/s Just have a very good night with my family at the Global March to Jerusalem. Pray for me that I'll die there one day, untuk syahid sebenar-benar syahid.


  1. From someone who scores an A+ in his Calculus II, I'll surely heed his advice concerning the butterfly effect.. Peace bro!

  2. Butterflies, newest song by Paramore still into u.. ada rindu saper2 ke ni hihi?


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