The universe relies on both order and chaos. It’s a prerequisite for evolution and progress.
An example of chaos is the unpleasant phenomenon that our 4 ½ billion-year-old planet periodically experiences mass extinction. And not just dinosaurs. There are multiple documented events where a good portion of the planet gets wiped out. One of which is the Permian extinction – some 250 million years ago – that removed an estimated 95% of life on the planet! As for the cause, hypotheses range from volcanoes, to a rise in greenhouse gasses, to meteorites. Nonetheless, chaos.
For me, it’s easy to dismiss these events as archaic and irrelevant until I pause to consider the cause and effect relationship. Those kinds of dramatic occurrences played part in the lead up to our experience now. Who knows how the story unfolds if our planet doesn’t encounter some of this trauma?
We need both order and disorder. This is how the universe evolves. Mass extinction doesn’t have to lead the analysis, though dramatizing sometimes helps. We can simply walk through a forest and witness both decay and life. Decay and life give energy to the other.
Then, depending on how an occurrence presents itself will likely dictate how we label it as orderly or disorderly.
Funny how we refer to soil as “rich” if it aids our mission of beautiful potted flowers or healthy crops when its primary composition is death (decayed plants). It feels orderly. Yet, decay is the same process involved when we lose a loved one, which often adds disorder to our lives. It seems the purpose served or the most obvious and initial outcome (no matter how trivial or vital) determines how we perceive the occurrence.
We should strive for order. However, when we inevitably encounter disorder, greeting it with surprise and angst doesn’t do much good. After all, what else should we expect? Not to mention, that same order for someone (or something) is often disorder for someone (or something). It’s all part of the movement forward. In any event, what we perceive as regressions are often far more useful than our success. A strange paradox lies in that most disorder is actually just as interesting as the order. There’s a bizarre beauty and ugliness to it all.
Lots of death, people being mistreated, pandemics, weird politicians, economic disparity, and stock market crashes must occur to make way for new life and a better future. This is no new pattern and some version of it will always be the case.
Just as fascinating to me, is that it seems the more we resist anything (order or disorder), the longer it’s likely to persist. If someone continually whispers in our ears to stop thinking of elephants, we’ll likely keep picturing elephants, until we allow that person to just become noise.
One step further – this is purely anecdotal and subject to debate: I often wonder that if the fanatic voter base for President Trump didn’t feel such resistance from fellow citizens, could the “experiment” with him run its course faster? At its core, there seems to be a group of people that want to be heard and the harder that’s resisted, the longer and harder that base digs in. I’m reminded of an old line in sports: “Take what the defense gives you”, not “Run the same play regardless of what’s in front of you.” It seems embracing something we don’t like often produces better outcomes than forcing what we think we want.
*To be clear, that’s not a political statement. It’s an observation. I straddle the line politically, which probably makes me a useful idiot.
Further, the pace of growth and evolution can be both incredibly rapid or slow. For instance, we learn quickly that touching a hot surface is unpleasant. Meanwhile, scientists agree that the Permian extinction (from above) took between 2-10 million years to recover. It seems plausible that everything we perceive as disorder has a near infinite amount of time to reveal its beauty. I accept, though, that this becomes nearly impossible to embrace if we only think of what’s in it for the human race and not the universe collectively.
How we greet the order and the disorder is most paramount.
Even in moments of order, caution to celebrate is warranted. We know nearly everything is temporary. At a mundane level, most people will acknowledge that the news of a promotion or pay raise was a better dopamine hit than the extra money hitting their bank account. And, even after receiving the money, it didn’t take long at all to become acclimated and maybe even become unappreciative.
In moments of disorder, it behooves us to allow some space to wonder why something is occurring, rather than defaulting to a reactive state. This is applicable in everyday moments of worry and fear, and at a larger, more global, scale. Additionally, we need to be open to events temporarily making little to no sense to us. And in that same realm, ‘temporarily’ might feel exceptionally long to us, while not even registering on the map of time for the universe.
Writer/poet, Max Ehrmann, famously said in his Desiderata, “And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
Similarly, from Sir Paul McCartney, “When I find myself in times of trouble… Let it be.”
No doubt, in our days, decades, centuries, and millennia we will have eras that we perceive as both order and chaos. As we strive for order, can we embrace the disorder as part of the necessary evolutionary process? Ironically, in this manner, individual contentment and global order seems more attainable (all while understanding that even with order, that “this, too, shall pass”).
Markets will tumble many more times, another pandemic is possible, violence will occur, and there will be more politicians to despise. And this will all make way for new life and a brighter future. We can all reside in the space that admires the beauty and horror of it all, while sharing a goal of order.
Stay calm. Stay invested.
Thanks for reading,