I remember going to a hockey game with my Dad back when the Mario Lemieux led Penguins were rolling. My memory is that it was a great game and a wonderful evening. However, what is etched in my mind is that when we stepped outside the Civic Arena there was a blizzard with five inches of snow already on the ground. The joy of the game was quickly replaced by the chaos of the weather and the challenging ride home.
We vacillate in and out of chaos, enjoying harmony and order but then falling into a world of turmoil and disorder. We have all experienced that trend around vacations. A much-needed break from the day-to-day rat race is sandwiched between the days of craziness preparing for the time away and the week after, digging out of the piled-up work. A vacation can leave us wondering whether the joy is worth the pain. Even just being engrossed in a good book or movie, can require us to scramble to put dinner on the table.
I have two business colleagues, brothers, that endured chaos at multiple levels over the past year. Their ‘normal’ routines were upended when their father, who lived in Canada, took ill and eventually passed away during COVID. Traveling back and forth between countries required quarantine stays and border logistics for them and their family. Plus there was the grief of losing a parent and being support for their mom. Then when they returned to everyday life, they had homes with frozen pipes from the subzero weather in Texas. On top of all of that, waiting for them were work issues in need of their attention.
To me the class=”=””ic song about the chaos, is the Temptations’, 1970 release, “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today),”which could have easily been written in today’s times. The song tried to make sense of the chaos and disorder prevailing at the time. It covered race, war, government, and drugs. It was one of the few protest records that ever came out of Motown.
Well, the only person talking about love thy brother is the preacher
And it seems nobody’s interested in learning but the teacher
Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration
Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation
The reality is that chaos exists, and we need to learn to dance with the chaos and row with it. We can be but a moment away from being in chaos, as well as just one step away from being out of chaos. One way to work with chaos is to live in your vision, not in your circumstance by trusting the process. When there is a vision, a mental view of the end goal, we can see beyond the chaos. Doesn’t necessarily mean everything is idea and we know the best path. But with a vision, we see discovery and growth amidst the chaos. “Progress everywhere today does seem to come so very heavily disguised as chaos.” – Joyce Grenfell
Brainstorming sessions can often be ‘facilitated chaos’ where the spirit of creativity prospers generating new ideas or a new direction. Many great accomplishments and important inventions have teetered on the very edge of chaos with people who refused to accept the status quo and the word ‘impossible.’ There are times when we don’t know what’s going to happen. The end of one idea becomes the start of a new idea and the lines get blurred in the process.
Order and chaos are the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang and British philosopher, Alan Watts, said: “What is discord at one level of your being is harmony at another.” At a certain level we can appear to be in a state of discord, but this very discord can translate to the health and harmony of the whole.
Richard Garriott stated that, “Chaos and Order are not enemies, only opposites. Chaos and Order combined equal balance.” In the movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Vision makes the comment to Ultron, “Humans are odd. They think order and chaos are somehow opposites and try to control what won’t be. But there is grace in their failings. I think you missed that.” There is grace and merit, in working through the chaos that surrounds us.
Social change is a direct outcome when a group of idealists go against the prevailing consensus. These idealists challenge beliefs or practices that many say are “impossible to change” or as others would put it – create chaos. Systemic slavery was the way of the world for thousands of years. In that time, it would have been impossible to imagine a world where there was no slavery. Abolitionists were ridiculed. After all, changing what was part of the social order for the whole of recorded history would be clearly impossible. Yet, abolitionists fought the good fight, without seeing meaningful progress for years, until they changed the world.
In some cases, chaos is not the problem, it is our interaction with it. Is it disorganized or organized chaos? Are we approaching the chaos as an agile or fragile team? Is our preparation to be ‘over prepared and underwhelmed’ or will we experience being ‘under prepared and overwhelmed?’
We created chaos in the Garden of Eden when we chose to invoke chaos by breaking the rules of order. So, it is only natural that our world vacillates between order and chaos. We choose to be ducks that dwell and flourish amidst commotions when we can just as easily choose to be an eagle and soar over the storms.
In the Bible, every time those that came down the mountain after having experienced the wonder of God, came down to chaos. When Abraham and Isaac came down after their encounter with the angel of the Lord and returned home, their wife/mother Sara had died (Genesis 22). When Moses comes down from time spent with God, the people are worshipping the golden calf (Exodus 32). When the Apostles come down after Jesus’ transfiguration, there is the scene of the large crowd with arguing scribes and the exorcism of a boy possessed by a demon (Mark 9).
From 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.” In this letter, Saint Paul expands a standard Jewish blessing “God of all encouragement” to assert the theme of “encouragement” against a background of “affliction” and “suffering.”
We created the chaos that exists in our world, but we have been given the ability to be ‘over prepared and underwhelmed’ by relying on God’s grace. The chaos of today will drive the change and joy of tomorrow. It can be the strongest storm that produces the most beautiful rainbow.