Ok. This is the housewife’s rendition of these two fun-loving ideas. (So, for goodness sake, don’t quote me, unless you really want to.) The Black Swan theory has a dark side, and I heard a little about that recently on CNBC. (I’ll read the book later.) The dark side of the theory says that everything is random, uncertain, that risk can’t really be measured, that we should expect the highly unexpected, improbable, and God-awful worst, which will be even more terrible because we didn’t plan for it. Summary: we don’t know what the hell is going on with the economy, can’t control it, should bury our money, and learn to barter like the Pilgrims. 

In Chaos theory—you know, the butterfly flaps his wings over Chile, and that little wind current eventually causes a tornado in Turkmenistan— well, it deals with the strangely random, too. But in spooky actuality the butterfly, wind current, and tornado are part of a really-not-so-random system controlled by nature, or Oprah, or one of the Manning boys. And as far as the economy goes, the “butterfly” explains why Billy Joe can miss a mortgage payment in May, and that can take down Lehman Brothers in September. See how it works.

The obvious question at this point is, So? Well, I think that we will all feel better about the mess we are in if we understand it. Except no one really understands the economy, so let’s not start there.

Let’s start, instead, with things that are perplexing, but not beyond our grasp—like Aretha’s inauguration hat. I am sorry, but that hat wins the ugly award. And the surprising thing is that not everybody agrees with me, especially the Queen of Soul herself.  The Smithsonian, National Museum of Science, Barnum and Bailey, or somebody wanted her to donate her hat to display for small children to see. But, no, she couldn’t bear to part with it. Lord help us. Ok, so explaining that may not be so easy.

Let’s try something else. I call this, “the olive on the floor theory.” Here in this house, the people, me included, rely on the dog to pick things up that fall on the floor. A potato chip, a little piece of cheese, spilled milk, a napkin, you know—anything. And this works 99.99% of the time. But what about the .01% when the dog just says no? Improbable? Unexpected? Yes, but it happened this weekend. An olive sat right on the kitchen floor in front of God, the dog, and a couple of cats. Each of us had to step over it, or maybe on it, at least 6000 times, and nobody picked it up. Why? It was the big dog’s job to pick it up, when he didn’t, eventually somebody else had to. Now, what does “the olive on the floor theory” teach us? I think it teaches us that sometimes big dogs can let you down, and when that happens you have to take action. See? That is a nice, succinct explanation.

And that is what the world needs more of—nice, succinct explanations. But, since we really don’t have any, we may have to choose between the butterfly and the swan to explain the complicated trouble we are in. Well, I never liked that ugly duckling story, and the couple of swans I’ve met were beautiful, mean, and worthless. So, I am going with the butterfly. And I guess that means I believe that little things can make a difference, and that the someone somewhere who really is in charge will bring order to the chaos. At least, I hope so.