Saturday, September 5, 2009

Domino Effect

Have you ever killed another human being? Wow, that's a question that kind of hangs out there, isn't it? If this kind of makes you catch your breath, let me ask the question in a slightly different vein. Have you ever been responsible for the death of another? I suspect that most folks reading these words would answer immediately and unequivocally with NO! I recognize that you might find questions of this sort shrill and "out there" and inappropriate, but I have been thinking about my own answers to questions of this sort. Now I'm not confessing to the Folsom Prison Blues here (I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die). No, I'm pondering questions of this sort more from the perspective of a six degrees of separation kind of thing. The interest that I have today is in how our decisions and choices unintentionally affect the lives of others in the world.

To make my point less obtuse, let's consider the following scenario. You have an airline reservation to go on a business trip. At the last minute your plans change, so you cancel your reservation. Now, the opening that you just created allows another person a seat on the flight. If this plane then crashes due to mechanical problems, then you, in some sense, are directly responsible for the death of the person who filled the vacancy you created. I am sure now that you understand my view point here, you could dream up any number of hypothetical scenarios where a decision that you make could directly or indirectly put into motion a time line where someone could be killed where you have culpability. If the cause and effect are several steps disconnected (you affect X who then affects Y who then affects Z), you would never even be aware of the impact of your initial decision. While this type of domino cascade effect is perhaps a bit macabre, it still is kind of interesting to consider.