Calm and Chaos

It’s a thin line between calm and chaos. I want to take that line and make it thick. Really really think. I want to make it so thick that chaos is held clearly and firmly on its side of the line.

As I write this I’m aware that I’m talking about chaos. It’s not going to be contained by a line, real or imagined. By its nature chaos is going to do its best to destroy the very idea of a line. Even when we feel we may have created or discovered some degree of balance, chaos is lurking. It waits patiently for the façade of calm to crumble. Or is there a means to conquer it and remain calm in the face of inevitable chaos?

When I examine what I go through in my day I can see where the conflict between calm and chaos arises. On one side I have my plans, I have a clear idea of how I want to spend my time. There are deadlines to meet and goals to achieve. Chaos sits on the other side poised to thwart, metaphorical spanner in hand, ready to be thrown into my works. It’s so simple for chaos to hinder my plans and by so doing unravel my calm. My calm is almost entirely based on my desire to achieve what I have told myself I need to do. Chaos is no more than the frustration of my desires not being met. And there is the solution lying at the crux of the problem. I am giving chaos all the power. The true chaos is the idea I have created in my mind, that if I don’t tick off my list today then I have failed, that my idea of what needs to be achieved is somehow so vitally important that if frustrated it will lead to calamitous retribution. Aiding chaos is the idea that when anything new comes along I immediately think I have to deal with it and drop what I think is truly important.

The answer to what has seemed like an endless riddle to me might be to alter my perception of emerging priorities and rationally address them for what they are rather than seeing them as obstacles to my calm. Applying reason, I can either give immediate attention to the interruption or triage it. I also have to look closely at the things on my to do list. Who said I had to do all these things? Who said I had to make them all happen today? Who said I had to do them all at once? Turns out I did! Why exactly I don’t know, but it’s clear that the malicious force I personify as ‘Chaos’ is only a figment of my over active human mind, so too is my seemingly endless list of desires. Perhaps the best way to create calm is to remove the line between calm and chaos entirely, remove the very idea of an internal world of opposing forces. With that perhaps I can take away the power they hold in my mind and the affect they have upon my thoughts and actions.

Evan Shapiro
Author – Road To Nowhere

2 Comments on “Calm and Chaos

  1. Dr. Shapiro, Sir – even as I start to respond to this latest gift from you to all humanity, I am still unsure how to play this. I could play it straight and assume that you were playing it straight when you wrote this deeply human piece. I could play it straight while secretly going with my gut instinct that there was a kindly and knowing smile on your face as you wrote this. Or I could just get all Tom Robbins on you – with a dash of W.C. Fields and a smidgeon of Robin Williams thrown into the mix. And then there’s always the Ethereal Angel option. You know, borrowing Rumi’s voice for a moment and waxing spiritually poetic on your head. If you suspect that I have been playing for time by trotting-out a rather pedestrian series of options – Yes, guilty as charged. But what is equally true is that I am warming up. And giving you a chance to settle into the sound of my voice before I deliver the punchline. OK, I have written the obligatory introduction. Now to the juicy part. Dude – WHO is feeling either calm or chaotic ? Afterall, Calm and Chaos are not generally considered to be floating out there in the atmosphere, just waiting to infect some innocent passerby. Yup, someone is feeling either calm or chaotic.OK, so far I am simply wasting your time. You made this point yourself in your truly thoughtful piece. But I noticed that you stopped. You are going somewhere towards the end of your piece and then you end that piece before giving the whole thing away. In other words, you are really inviting us to join the conversation and finish the thought. Nice. I can tell you are one of those good-hearted people who give a damn and know how to lead a horse to water. Water which that long-suffering horse is MOST anxious to drink in great quantities and with rather loud slurping sounds. Oops ,getting sidetracked…where were we ? Oh, that’s right – WHO is feeling either Calm or Chaotic ? Yes, you. Or you over there wearing the clown suit and the sad face paint, Or the lady in the back row who keeps covering her face with her hands in order to mask the fact that she is giggling in an almost uncontrollable manner at the antics going on on stage. Or me. Yeah, it could be Chuck who is feeling Calm or Chaotic. OK, so what’s the point of clearly establishing that some specific person is feeling either Calm or Chaotic ? Well, because eventually it occurs to all of us that that person who is feeling either Calm or Chaotic, Happy or Sad, Loving or Malicious, Etc or Etc…that person has been getting a “free pass” all along. We’ve never bothered to examine the status of that person. We’ve never asked ourselves just how much substance that person has (and I don’t mean physical weight or amount of money in the bank account). We have never asked ourselves, “Hold it ! – just WHO IS this masked man who keeps moving from one interesting thought to another, who keeps changing emotional states like a debutante in a high-end dress shop ? Who is this ME, this ‘I’, who has been acting like a Divinely-appointed King or Queen my whole life ?” Now before you just brush me aside as simply another clever but useless member of your audience – notice where we have gotten. The focus is no longer on exactly which remedial effort we should make to (temporarily) resolve the Calm vs. Chaos problem…we have completely upended THAT problem and introduced a new one. It’s not that we’ve found a 3rd option to the “Calm vs Chaos conundrum” – we’ve kicked ourselves upstairs. We are at a different level. And we sense a certain juiciness about this level. This is getting deep. This is getting primordial. This is getting cosmic. This is getting to the very roots of Identity. We don’t care anymore whether you are feeling Calm or Chaotic…we are looking right into our own eyes and boldly declaring, “Just WHO THE HELL do YOU think you ARE ???!!!!!”. OK, I think I’ve exceeded my allotted time. Sorry. Most humbly sorry. I shall shuffle off this stage with great dispatch – leaving nothing behind except a warm smile and sincere thanks for writing ANOTHER thought-provoking piece.

    1. Chuck, I like to think I’m always expressing ideas with a kindly and knowing smile. A knowing smile that is not so fixed that it may also be seen as an unknowing smile. Another word for calm, as hinted in the featured images is order. To me both chaos and order are productions of the human mind. We overlay them upon all we see including the structure of the universe. Or perhaps order and chaos are creations of the universe and our human brains have evolved as a reflection of that? It’s certainly fun to play in the realm of thought and question everything. For me chaos manifests as frustration when a desire is thwarted. At least I label it that way. You extrapolated nicely when you expanded that to happy, sad, loving and malicious etc. Personally I’m discovering that there is a significant sense of peace (calm) when I remove the idea of a desire being thwarted. Do I still want things? Yes I do. But by brining awareness to what causes a rise and fall in frustration I find I am clearer about the things that really matter. Achieving them with calm and clarity feels pretty good.

What do you think?