For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
This age-old proverb popped into my head when I was chatting to a friend on Facebook. She was commenting on how scary it is that our littlest actions can lead to momentous consequences. Just like the famous Chaos Theory postulates, a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon can lead to weather changes that can result in a storm brewing in Florida. These ‘what ifs’ are an interesting part of the study of History and what are termed ‘counterfactuals’. These questions also feature now and again in movies like ‘Sliding Doors’ and ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’. Life is an exercise in choices: tomorrow’s journey mapped out by the decisions we choose to make today. And even the most insignificant ones can cause effects beyond what we have imagined, for who could have thought that for want of a nail, a kingdom was lost?
(Which by the way was really what happened at the Battle of Bosworth when Richard III fell from his horse in Shakespeare’s play ‘Richard III’)