As I was waiting today for people to show up, and having to deal with the uncertainty of not knowing how many would come or when they would come, I reflected a little bit on order and chaos in general and their relationship both to my life and the way I live it. I tend to be someone who tries to maintain organized chaos, or who occasionally has to struggle with chaotic order, but I am content neither with total randomness nor with straitjacketed order without any leeway or flexibility. I exist somewhere near the middle of the two extremes of stasis and entropy.
I do not see how it could be any other way. As a deeply creative person, both musically and in the literary arts of drama and poetry and prose, I use my vivid imagination to envision the world as it may be or might have been and not only as it is. I use reality as the jumping off point for intellectual journeys, rather than as a hedge that keeps me locked in. As a result, I tap my chaotic energies for the creativity they provide. These chaotic energies spring from a life that has been full of absurdity and that has led to a great deal of frightening nightmares and terrors, many of which I have worked through by writing my way through them. In short, my life has had no choice but to struggle with the chaos inherent in living in a fallen world.
Nonetheless, I have not been content simply to dwell in chaos. I have a deep drive to bring some kind of order to the chaos, to harness my imagination and to discipline my many and disparate and seemingly random interests so that they are honed like a sharp sword blade. I have brought to my distractedness and daydreaminess a sometimes frightening focus and intensity, married to a ferocious killer instinct against enemies and threats, especially those close to me. I have also enjoyed categorizing and systemitizing my knowledge and thoughts and interests rather than simply letting them run wild and undisciplined. So in my own life I have married a high degree of order and a high degree of chaos, with unsurprisingly mixed and highly dramatic results.
Nonetheless, the fact that I am driven to bring order to the chaos of my existence suggests that I am, however slightly, on the side of order rather than that of chaos. I am driven to find closure, not content with mere purposeless wandering. This directional focus brings at least a slight bias to my personality that makes me seen by others as being somewhat ambitious, and at times a bit pushy and impatient, and certainly not someone who likes aimless wandering or endless surprises, even if I can deal with chaos a bit better than my more straitlaced brethren.
My own inner dynamic dealing with order and chaos has led me to ponder the subject often, even if I have not often written about it, at least not directly. If one is orderly on the inside, one’s appearance will be orderly as well. Outer disorder can spring from no other source than inner disorder, or at least an inability to deal with the disorder of one’s life and existence. I realize that some people have far more disorder to struggle against, and that this does not mean that they are necessarily less orderly by nature, simply that they are still overwhelmed by the chaos of their lives, and therefore end up disorderly themselves. This sort of state, one I know well myself, often comes to the surface through psychological disorders like anxiety disorder, or schizoid disorders, or PTSD, or even more exotic physical disorders like Morgellons . Again, it suggests that one has a lot of work to do to deal with the chaos of one’s life.
That said, it is possible that one can be orderly on the outside and disorderly on the inside. This was the problem of the Pharisees in the eyes of Jesus Christ. They hid their inner moral chaos and disorder through appearing to be models of moral rectitude. They compartmentalized their spirituality between an appearance of ascetic righteousness and moral severity and an internal reality of deep moral chaos. This similar problem was an issue for the ascetic branch of the Gnostic heretics as well, one reason that when someone says I am good at compartmentalizing myself that I consider it a serious insult, because I assume that they are calling me a hypocrite.
It is more honest to have no gap between the chaos of one’s internal life and the chaos of one’s external appearance, but if we remain at that level we are simply either vicious or incontinent, lacking in self-discipline. Time and chance (absurdity and chaos) happen to all of us, but if we are to be righteous we have to work our way through the chaos, to create something worthwhile out of it and to learn and grow from it, and to resolve it so that we return once again to a state of equilibrium and internal balance. We cannot remain out of whack and out of balance without doing serious damage to our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. To be a creative person is to be able to work through the chaos, to turn what is destructive and random into what is orderly and beautiful and creative, to transmute base materials into what is precious and golden, a sort of moral alchemy.
And this is the goal of every creative person who has a deep and driven moral compass. We are neither content with chaos and disorder nor do we wish to make our order too rigid. We recognize the need for flexibility, for sensitivity, but are not content to let such qualities run wild. In short, we remain disciplined against the laziness of a rigid and static order that cannot accept change or adapt to it as well as the laziness of a chaos that refuses to do the hard internal labor of turning junk into well-functioning systems, of turning trash into treasure.
And this we will do if our time and energy permit, for this is how we make our world into a better place than we found it. We must harness our chaos into the energy it takes to create a just moral order, not to be content with either the anarchy of chaos or the tyranny of an unjust and rigid order. Either wicked extreme is common enough in our world, but if we are righteous, we will seek that difficult and narrow path between the two extremes, so that we fall into no ditches or off of any cliffs on either side as we seek to create a better world than what we ourselves have known. To do that requires both chaos and order, in their right proportion, and devoted to moral ends.