Out of chaos comes order

Friedrich Nietzche

I’ve been thinking a lot about chaos lately. Though the deep science and mathematics of chaos theory are way over my head, I’m fascinated by it.

Chaos is everywhere but it is not the frantic ugliness that often comes to mind. As written on Britannica.com, chaos theory is, “in mechanics and mathematics, the study of apparently random or unpredictable behaviour in systems governed by deterministic laws.”

There is a book written by James Gleick called Chaos: Making a New Science. In August of 2013, I put that book in my Amazon shopping cart and there it sat for over three years. It finally occurred to me the other day (duh) to check if our library had it and — yes, they do!

Every evening for the last week, I’ve had the book in my hot little hands. Chaos and chaos theory are just as enthralling as I could have imagined.

Naturally, the deeper I go into the book the more complicated it gets. So far, it’s still pretty accessible to me.

If you are interested in chaos theory but think it’s too science-y for you, you might want to check out this book. (See what I did there? Ha!) In case you’re not a library person, the Kindle version was only about ten dollars the last I checked. But I digress.

There are patterns in chaos and they are beautiful. Mandlebrot sets; Julia sets; fractals, in general, are pure artwork. They demonstrate order from chaos.

The other day, on a walk, I snapped a picture of some lush moss. In it, you can see the patterns of ferns and of frost. It is orderly chaos captured on the camera roll of my phone.

The universe is huge and science suggests there are many universes besides the one we know. Studying science of this nature can make a person feel strangely insignificant but chaos theory makes me feel like every life matters.

The Twin Jet Nebula, or PN M2-9, is a striking example of a bipolar planetary nebula. Photo courtesy of NASA Images

Every action taken affects every other action, from the so-called butterfly effect onward. It breathes scientific life into the idea that a random act of kindness can change a stranger’s day, or week or perhaps the course of their life.

Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.

Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu

As a less abstract example, I put forth an average suburban neighborhood. In fact, I’ll put forth my very own, actual, real-life neighborhood.

Each house has a yard and an owner who tends that yard. I am not responsible for tending the yard down the street, nor are they responsible for tending mine.

Still, my yard affects your yard in its very state of being. Weeds in my yard blossom and seed and spread to your yard. If I had a fleet of rusty cars on blocks (in case you are wondering, I do not) that would lower your property values.

On a biological level, my yard is weedy because it is not chemically treated to suppress them. This, in turn, keeps the groundwater free of those chemicals. The perennials, herbs, and fruit trees (and yes, even the weeds) add a biodiversity a flat lawn doesn’t have which supports a more robust soil and animal life.

I’m not suggesting everyone let their yard go to sheer chaos, as beautiful as chaos can be. I’m demonstrating that in multiple ways, one yard in a neighborhood affects every other yard in that neighborhood.

We are like that too. Trying to say your life has no impact on the world is like claiming your lungs have no impact on your toes. They don’t even touch each other and are made up of different cells, besides. This is clearly ridiculous, yet the logic is much the same.

Holding the point of view that your life doesn’t matter is like “old physics” where infinitesimal differences are dismissed as noise to be removed from the equations.

We breathe life into the human condition even when we feel like our lives are made up of drudgery: get up, go to work, come home, go to bed, repeat, ad nauseam.

We make a difference in ways we may never know. These differences are so small that even weariness can cause us to overlook them: A beautiful scarf that reminds someone silently of their native home in another country; a casual compliment that inspires someone to complete a project they had nearly abandoned; a cup of coffee paid forward that restores someone’s faith in humanity.

Thoughts, words, and actions are powerful. Use your powers wisely.

source unknown

You matter, and I matter. All of us are woven together so tightly that small movements can become ripples that spread far and wide.

This is chaos and out of this chaos rises the order of the world.

Brightest blessings, Sunny