Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Beauty of Chaos

I am looking at my desk. It’s scary. I have been told that I have an orderly and tidy mind, but if my desk is an outward manifestation of this, I cannot believe that this is true. It reminds me a little of the world. People who believe in creation will often point to the world, holding up its wondrous order and efficiency as evidence that a mind is at its basis. The world is indeed a wondrous place. However, as you look more closely into it, ordered and efficient it most certainly is not. Chaotic and wasteful, are the words that come more readily to mind.

“Nature” often achieves her goals by “throwing everything at a problem”, so to speak. Consider ants. Far from representing a well-oiled, well-ordered machine, colonies are more often a disorganized rabble. Sheer numbers means that they eventually get there, i.e. achieve their purpose. There would be much more orderly and efficient ways of achieving their goals were this “planned”. I suggest that the last thing we should do is “Go to the ant… and consider her ways” (Proverbs), at least if we are in search of models of efficiency and cooperation. If we are in search of how order arises out of disorder and chaos, then ants are our girls.

You do not have to look far into the natural world to recognize that there is no plan, just as there is no plan for how my desk operates. If there is a mind behind the natural world, it is a decidedly disorderly and wasteful one. But the beauty and wonder of the world lies precisely in this: that order and structure arise out of chaos and randomness. Once you have glimpsed this process, you will stand in awe of it and never look back. To see this as in any way “planned” is not only, in the end, rather silly, but also robs the natural world of its true beauty. To see the world as planned is not to see it as it is, but to see it as our minds would like it to be – at least as very tidy people would like it to be. Religion is the obsessive compulsive part of our nature that likes everything to be in its place. Really the world is just a wonderful, exciting and ever-surprising mess.

And no, you probably will never find that other sock.

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