“I will put Chaos into fourteen lines
And keep him there; and let him thence escape
If he be lucky; let him twist, and ape
Flood, fire, and demon—his adroit designs
Will strain to nothing in the strict confines
Of this sweet Order, where in pious rape,
I hold his essence and amorphous shape,
Till he with Order mingles and combines…
…He is nothing more nor less,
Than something simple not yet understood…”
- Edna St. Vincent Millay
The world is random, chaotic, meaningless, a series of haphazard events and relationships that make no sense and all human attempts to explain them are futile and delusionary.
The world is pre-destined, God’s plan, everything neatly explained and tucked into an irrefutable dogma that is the true gospel.
And then everything in-between.
The first leads often to cynicism and a shoulder-shrugging “whatever” or “why bother?” The second leads to iron-bound fundamentalist conviction that freezes thinking and excludes possibilities.
But the in-between is what interests me. Particularly the Chaos Theory tenet that chaos is a harmonious relationship yet to be perceived, a complexity too vast to be easily understood that requires our highest level of thought, constant investigation. relentless effort to uncover larger patterns, a practice of revelation. As the composer Schoenberg put it, echoing the poet above, “Dissonance is a consonance yet to be perceived by the listener.”
Art is one path to organizing chaos, taking the jumble of random noise or shapes, colors and images, physical gestures and motions, verbs, nouns and adjectives and gathering them into coherent music, art, dance, poetry. Depth psychology, deep ecology, quantum physics, meditation are other fields of investigation seeking to reveal hidden patterns that drive our thinking, feeling and living. They are not easily bought for an “I believe!” nor eschewed by a simplistic “it’s all a pile of crap” dismissal.
We are creatures of meaning, constantly seeking some sense of order, constantly creating some sense of order. Whether we choose the easy route of casually accepting someone else’s explanation, give up the search or pledge ourselves to persistent revelation makes all the difference in the world.
I woke up at 5 in the jet-lagged morning with these two words—“organized chaos”—rattling in my brain and felt obliged through my own practice of ordering the world to comment on it. Maybe now that I have I can go back to sleep!