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Order and Chaos

or, Death and Life? or what?


And I don't just mean Dee Hock's idea of the Chaordic Path, influential though that has been in Art of Hosting and other circles.

I'm talking about a kind of tension that exists within many of us, myself included, that in some way links to wanting both, irreconcilable, sides of order and chaos. There are many other similar dualities, which while they may not be the same, are nevertheless resonant in some way. So I invite you to ask yourself, is there a similar tension, a similar pair of irreconcilable opposites within you, as I describe what I experience within myself.

Maybe also this relates to what I was writing on 2023-03-03 about disconnection and reconnection?


I love order. I really appreciate it when I have routine, predictability; a sense that I can plan ahead and know what is coming, prepare for it. Often I don't enjoy being thrown out of what I was expecting.

I love the feeling that I can think through the effects of what I do; that I can plan to maximise the impact I have on the world, the difference I make.

And yet, and yet…

Total order is, in essence, death. It kills the creativity and spontaneity that is essential to life. There is stasis. If nothing is unexpected, nothing is new; everything becomes boring, ultimately devoid of interest. There is nothing to stimulate attention, nothing new to integrate.

I yearn for new life, for breaking free from this ordered stasis.


Is this the right word? Maybe not: it feels like it is the other side painted in the colours in which the ordered side sees it. “Chaos” has a negative, judgemental feel to it. I can't simply say “I love chaos”, as that would sound like I love something negative. How would I describe the other side of what I love, then?

One could reverse the value implication, and call it “life” and “death”. Chaos would correspond to life, and order to death. (The scientifically minded might like to connect this with entropy.)

I love life. I love the newness involved in seeing people (including me) learn and grow. The way we used to see the world is opened up, transcended, by something new, something different, something that we hadn't accounted for, at least not accounted for fully. New possibilities open up, whether around action, or just, to begin with, ways of understanding and conceiving of the world around us, of other people.

Other people: that is one of the keys, for me. Other people are never completely predictable. And in that sense, I contain a variety of “other” personas, sub-personalities, that are never perfectly predictable by my conscious, rational mind. Prediction is not, of course, the point. Prediction is relevant to controlling the “other”, not to learning from the other, from what is “other”.

Hence the irreplaceable value of otherness, of diversity, of individuality, of uniqueness.

And yet; and yet…

I go into the garden in the spring, and it is so beautiful with new growth, with buds, with blossom, with shoots, with new leaves in that glorious range of greens that abounds in the springtime. Then, all too quickly, it starts to overwhelm me. At the level of my personal garden experience, you can't see the brambles any more, to weed them out. The horsetails shoot up, with no real prospect of dealing with them, or the other persistent unwanted plants. There is far too much clamour of things that ask for attention, for care, for curation; but no order, no schedule that can effectively deal with them.

I share experiences with a group of people. It starts by being so rich, so amazing, so many new and promising connections. Then, sooner or later, we start to “push each other's buttons”, or to “trigger” each other, or to “get on each other's nerves”, or however you like to say it. Soon, it all feels too much to cope with. I cannot handle that sheer quantity of diversity, that overwhelming variety of individual perspectives, that tidal wave of plurality that comes not simply with a number of people counted by their heads, but with the number of parts (IFS) within each person — those parts of which the owners are so often not even aware.

I yearn for order; for handles I can grasp in order to act purposefully in the world.


It's not either/or; it's both-and, even though both order and chaos together make no sense at all; even though order kills chaos and chaos overwhelms order. But I simply cannot hold this universal tension within myself, all by myself. It is too much. I am too small.

I come back, yet again, to the sense that, though I am too small as an individual, yet I can feel the potential of a well-connected collective to be big enough for this; at least to be significantly larger in scope, in potential. Is this what I've been writing about, around relating in collectivity and collective ikigai? Is this, something like this, what is keeping on nagging at me to be realised, to be brought into both consciousness and action?

So it's back, again and again, over and over, to the first step: to find the others with whom I can constitute the well-connected collective. And, for me, while avoiding the desire for connection becoming itself obsessive, overwhelming, or (counter-productively) off-putting to others. Which, in turn, means finding enough connection from and within mySelf; recognising that the lonely parts of me are not really alone within me, but are co-present with other parts — the order-loving part (relating to statis and death) is co-present with the life-loving part (related to chaos and overwhelm).

A deeper duality to explore sometime: how much can this diversity be realised within the “Internal Family”, and how much more with an external, embodied, family of choice? I can only say, as an interim conclusion, “be open, express openness, to connection in this deep way, but don't just externalise it, don't expect it, don't press it on others, who have their own lives to live, their own journeys to follow”. And, equally, don't just be pressed into such a role, even such a high value role, in someone else's life; but do be open and explore, not assuming that it will work, or that that will be enough.

see also

I rediscovered a short piece I wrote in 2016 called Order and chaos inside ourselves. Nice to have moved on a bit.

d/2023-03-09.txt · Last modified: 2024-04-22 09:08 by simongrant