Change and Chaos

August 3rd, 2011

Life is divine chaos. Embrace it. Forgive yourself. Breathe. Enjoy the ride. Solbeam

We all want to control our lives, to some extent, so that we can feel safe. Change often throws a wrench in that plan, hurling curve balls and body blows that mess with the order you crave. Change can feel chaotic. Befriend chaos, and you will befriend change. Befriend change, and you will unlock the secret to a peaceful life. The first truth of change is that it happens and we are always in the middle of it. The second truth of change is to allow the future to emerge within, through and around you. The third truth of change is to embrace chaos. Buckle in, stay present, know who you are and get ready to grow.

The difference between a deck of cards and an iPhone illustrates the possibilities of chaos. The deck of cards is shuffled and completely disordered, a prime example of chaos. The iPhone is a prime example of order, an amazing machine, the result of decades of precision technology. What happens if I drop the cards on the ground? Are they any more or less ordered. No. They are no less chaotic than they were in my hands.

What about the iPhone? If I drop the iPhone, it will be less ordered. It could even be unfixable. The machine will be broken, and just as when I accidentally poured water in my iPhone a few years back, the technical geniuses at the Apple store will tell me to get a new machine because there is nothing they can do to restore order to my phone.

The deck of cards won’t organize itself. But it can easily be put into order with the help of an even moderately intelligent mind. It has potential to be put back into order.

When you think about it, this is incredible. The deck of cards which is completely chaotic has greater adaptability and potential for order than the precisely designed iPhone.

Chaos Theory says that even the most disorderly system contains within itself the seed of order. This is true for relationships, families, work teams, political systems, communities, even your own complex personal perspective. Margaret Wheatley describes it like this-

If a system is dislodged from its stable state, it moves first into a period of oscillation, swinging back and forth between different states. If it moves from this oscillation, the next state is full chaos, a period of total unpredictability. But in the realm of chaos, where everything should fall apart, the strange attractor comes into play and a new kind of order emerges from the chaos.

Maybe chaos feels too strong a word. Maybe the word “messy” is closer, like a messy conversation. You don’t know how to begin it, but you stumble in and when two people engage the conversation with humble curiosity, incredible things emerge. Or else maybe the word confusion seems more fitting. As Milton Erickson said, “If you are willing to be confused about what you know, what you know will grow bigger, better and more useful.”

This is why chaos (at least some chaos) is a gift. If the world functioned like a machine, it would struggle to handle change. Thankfully, the world is a living system and operates more like a deck of cards (sometimes it feels like a house of cards), where change becomes an opportunity for new things to emerge. If people operated like machines, we would struggle with change. But we are more like a deck of cards. With some reorienting of our perspective, such as recognizing that you can’t always control the cards you’re dealt, but you can always control the way you play them, and some reorganizing of our choices, change brings incredible new opportunities.

Think about Chaos Theory in terms of some intensely personal and difficult situations. On the day you lost your job, it felt like the sky was falling on all your hopes and plans. Little did you know that an incredible new path (blue sky) was unfolding in your chaos. The day your spouse told you he was leaving you, it felt like a heavy door was closing on your face and taking your feet out from under you. Little did you know the new love you would find. The chaos you felt when your parents died, when your beliefs started changing, when your kids left home….all were new opportunities in disguise.

As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.”

Chaos and Order

Chaos Theory is closely related to the Butterfly Effect. Change is powerful and not nearly as random as it often appears. Making one, small change such as changing your routine, smiling at a stranger or crossing the street to talk to a neighbor, can lead to incredible transformation. Chaos Theory reminds us of our power to co create the future through mindful participation in change.

This excerpt from the novel The Shack by W P Young describes the beautiful chaos of a garden. A fractal is a part that appears to break off from the whole, but retains the form of the whole and the potential to become whole again.

It was chaos in color.  His eyes tried unsuccessfully to find some order in this blatant disregard for certainty.  Dazzling sprays of flowers were blasted through patches of randomly planted vegetables and herbs, vegetation the likes of which Mack had never seen.  It was confusing, stunning, and incredibly beautiful.”

“From above it’s a fractal…” Sarayu said over her shoulder.

Every step he [Mack] took changed whatever patterns he for an instant thought he had seen, and nothing was like it had been.

“A fractal…something considered simple and orderly that is actually composed of repeated patterns no matter how magnified.  A fractal is almost infinitely complex.  I love fractals, so I put them everywhere.”

“Looks like a mess to me,” said Mack.

“That IS exactly what this is—a mess.  “But,” she looked back at Mack and beamed, “it’s still a fractal, too.

Fractals remind us that if you step back from what appears to be chaos, and take a higher or wider view of a situation, you see beauty and order that was hard to detect when you were close up. Change invites this high and wide perspective. As hard as it is, learn to stay open and awake in the middle of change because incredible new doors are opening for you. Change always comes bearing gifts of new possibilities.

As the artist Cezanne said, “We live in a rainbow of chaos.” Enjoy the color, variety and gifts that change brings to your life.

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  1. David says:

    Wonderful insight!  I am afraid of chaos and shut my eyes.  I can learn to take  some deep breaths, step back and with detachment  see the beauty and dynamics of a changing panorama!

  2. Hiya!  I run a blog called The Brink of Bedlam and my Twitter name is @Chaoskay – just a bit of a hint about my lifestyle.  It’s blummin’ back to front most of the time and I despair of ever getting things together, lol! But I have two lovely, happy healthy kids and a lovely husband and a cat, we bumble along through the muddle very happily.  I do love your anologies here, and call me an over emotional fool, but it brought a tear to my eye.  Maybe our lifestyle choices aren’t so bad after all!  Would you mind if I posted your article on my page, with all credit to yourself and a link?  I just think it’s so beautifully written and captures my outlook on life perfectly.  I do hope you’ll say yes, thank you,  Kay :O)

  3. ian says:

    Sure Kay- im honored. You sound like a kindred spirit, finding peace in the bedlam.

  4. Thank you!  Really appreciated.  :O)  Wishing you a great week ahead. x

  5. shereen says:

    I always believed that a person should build future from the future, always tell my friends  to believe that there is always a light at the end of the tannel, and if you can not see that light just believ that the light is there at the end of that tannel, but what if the future it self being distroed, damaged, and will always lead you to a dark end?

  6. Luanne says:

    This is an outstanding piece…Thank you!
    “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose Wisely.”~ Karen K. Clark

  7. […] Lawton is the author of the blog,Soul Seeds. He recently wrote an article called Change and Chaos. In it he […]

  8. Melanie says:

    I am always cursing my chaos and fighting it.  I realise I am using up valuable energy in these battles, not to mention sleep!  I love the book The Shack and your article reminded me to just let go, while keeping it together!!  Thanks – great reading.

  9. This is so true, powerful and beautifully written, as all your posts are. You’re one of my favorite @twitter follows. Bless you!

  10. ian says:

    thx Marianne- im honored

  11. As a person who has lived in 6 countries and moved houses at least 12 times, whose country disappeared, who has divorced and re-married, I understand and “embrace” change. I understand your analogy with a deck of cards; we’re all able to re-assemble after a change. Just need some time and some silence. It’s a nice comparison. 

    Order is completely and undeniably out of our each; isn’t this why we like reading so much? In books, at least, evens make sense (if the writer is any good). 

  12. ian says:

    hi Austin, thanks for your note. Change of the sort that you have seen leads to an acceptance of chaos. We all find our ways of staying sane- books, meditation, whatever works. Take care

  13. andre says:

    Everyone comes into ur life for a reason, some for good, some for bad, and some may break us but in the end they make us who we are.

    thanks for ur note dude….

  14. Merri Lou says:

    My life is in chaos and taking a few positive steps every day will lead to  something bigger and better. Thank you for the reminder.  🙂

  15. normbetrue says:

    The only people that like change…are wet babies….  🙂 If ur ever in Prescott AZ…I ‘d love to have you as a guest…on my program..I may throw a wrench in some of your convictions..4 lack of a better word..I really enjoy you.

  16. Christine says:

    It’s a great piece to open up my short-sighted view and attitude towards the current chaos. Thank u very much. @scubachristie

  17. Angelo says:

    I really like your “deck of cards” approach. I have always believed in “the Puzzle” approach, of my own invention. It explains that life is like a puzzle. We try to put the pieces together and it seems to take forever to finish it. But after a long time trying, all of the pieces start to fall in place, almost like magic. I guess chaos has its ways to make things happen after all. 

  18. angelica says:

    beautiful. thanks for that

  19. Chigozie says:

    Wonderful article…..great comments…You all made my day

  20. […] Soulseeds » Blog Archive » Change and Chaos Posted by MagMan on 09/05/2012 in Papers | ∞ […]

  21. Brett says:

    If it was not for chaos our life’s would be uncomplicated and there would be no need for this wonderful article.

  22. Bharathan Rajaram says:

    Thanks for the encouragement to have the courage to change. I’d love to see more articles on forgiveness. I’ll go look for them in the archives if you’ve done some already. Thanks!

  23. Marisol says:

    Maravillosa reflexion que define lo que y para que son las pruebas  en nuestras vidas. 

  24. Rebecca says:

    Hey Ian, Beautiful post.  Wonderfully written.  There IS beauty in finding order and answers from chaos.  It is articles like yours that remind us of that!  Well done! Rebecca

  25. Dale says:

    Soulseeds what would I do without you! You inspire me,give me hope
    and new perspectives,make me laugh and cry and bring joy and wisdom into
    my life,thankyou and bless you on your journey .

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