But the chaos is all so beautiful…

The Cardsharps, c. 1594, by Michelangelo Meris...

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I have always been fascinated by randomness. I am not alone, as shown by the ancient pastimes of gambling and divination. It is our lot as humans to peer into the chaos of the universe and try to discern patterns there. But perhaps a bigger question is whether our lives have some purpose or whether they are the results of a series of random events. Not a comforting question to consider, unless you posit that without randomness, you cannot have free will.

So instead let’s consider writing a story based on a randomly generated plot or theme or even a single word. Let’s start a website or band around a randomly generated name. Let’s decide who goes first (or last) using a randomly ordered list. Or maybe we’ll just do a little random surfing.

But can we really behave randomly and perhaps beat the lottery? Or is there too much order in the universe after all?

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11 thoughts on “But the chaos is all so beautiful…

  1. It’s not that hard to act randomly, but usually there is no benefit to doing so… unless that act of randomness is pre-planned.

    Unfortunately, doing enough and others will think of you as crazy.

  2. Hi Shannon. I stumbled on your blog via the happiness and meaning web site.

    And I totally hear you. It’s amazing how out of the chaos systems evolve that even enable life itself. When you understand this it’s odd to think that people are actually trying to bring order to the universe. We’ve seen this in Copenhagen in the last two weeks. World leaders think they can control the temperature of the globe despite the fact weather patterns are well known to be largely unpredictable. To me this is completely arrogant and unintelligent. Science is in its infancy and these people are jeopardising Earth on the whim and a prayer to be dominant. Even if it works I’d still call them f@*in’ stupid idiots!

  3. Richard–
    Hmmm, that wasn’t my point, but I still take your meaning. I think the Earth will be just fine, but we still need to worry about humans. Perhaps it is arrogant to think we can control nature, but that doesn’t mean that we should abuse it either, at our detriment.

    Also, to accept your premise, you have to accept that climate change is a random event, which I do not. The scientific evidence shows that it is a manmade event, and therefore not random at all.

  4. Shannon,
    Your blog prompted me to pull out one of my favorite books: “A Simpler Way” by Meg Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers. I love this book because the authors beautifully describe the relationship between chaos and order. Both are a natural part of the world. One evokes the other and vice versa.

    I believe there is great purpose in randomness. For example, there is essential purpose in play and creativity and moving into unknown territories and discovery and adventure, although sometimes it’s hard to describe. But we know there is purpose in these endeavors!

    I do wonder about how to have randomness be useful. I’m not sure about beating the lottery – but I do know that starting someplace, with say a word as you suggest, and moving creatively from there with an intention as simple as being randomly creative – will result in some form of new order emerging which is useful if only because we’ll discover something new. And discovering something new is always useful!

  5. Karen – I totally agree. Using randomness as a starting point can open us up to the unexpected and get us out of our comfort zone a little — a great way to spark creativity! But I wouldn’t recommend it as a full-time occupation. 🙂

  6. I apoligise if I wasn’t clear. I thought your point was that perhaps there’s too much order in the universe after all. And I would say humans would like it and want it that way. But it would seem bringing order to the universe is actually having adverse effects that can’t really be controlled and it should be left the way it’s supposed to be (as opposed to saying we can do this or that etc).

  7. Ah, I see. Interesting viewpoint. I think humans do strive for order and allowing a little more randomness may be a good thing. But we also seem to need to have purpose. I think living more purposefully on the Earth could only benefit all of us. But it does seem rather arrogant to think we can control everything.

  8. Yes. I thought about that from the angle that some randomness may give you power to find that “something else” so to speak. With so much order in the world how much control do we really have over our own lives? On a subtle level we could talk about the influence of the media in our everyday lives which often have hidden agendas behind it disseminated in a way that its purpose cannot be questioned. As you were saying we could do a random surf on the internet and see what you find. Of course this doesn’t mean what we find is random in a “pure” or natural sense. What we find may still have a hidden agenda. And some people feel helpless to this. They want more control over their own destiny even if it’s just to know the world around them so they can make their own minds up about things. Even if what’s natural is not random. What if, for example, God has a plan for you but because we are so disconnected from nature, so influenced by our social environment that you can’t hear him?

  9. All good questions, Richard. I find it helps to cede some control. When you stop hanging on so tightly, it makes it easier to receive those messages that God or the universe or whatever are sending to you. Maybe only by giving in to randomness can you find your purpose.

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