Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A Theory of Chaos

I have a theory.  It’s a theory that seems good to me.

It’s a theory of chaos.  A theory of good and evil.  

I believe in evolution.  To me its not even a question, it seems obvious.  As I sit here geese are walking and sitting outside my window.  I know now that these animals are dinosaurs.  Among paleontologists, it’s no longer debatable, dinosaurs are not extinct, they never have been.  In fact there are more dinosaurs in the world today than 75 million years ago.  They are one of the most successful animal species of all time.  When I see a chicken strut, I see a tyrannosaur, but much reduced.
Life on earth was designed to do one thing very, very well – it survives.  No matter what you do to this pale blue dot, volcanoes, global warming, asteroids, there is always something that will get through.  The variety of life on this planet is simply magnificent.  As far as we know so far, there is no other planet like it.

And how did this happen?  Nature did this using only one tool – mistakes.

Parents mix their genes, but the copy is never perfect.  There is always something a little off.  A little different from what came before.  What is special is that the mistakes are not resisted, they are incorporated into the creative process itself.

Writers experience something like this.  When you’re working on  a draft, if you’re into it, on a lucky day when the magic is working, things go sideways.  A character surprises you with a speech or does something that’s not in the plan.  Stephen King describes this as driving on a country road in the dead dark of night with only a pair of weak headlights.  You just know what’s in the headlights as it appears.  That’s the zone,  that’s when writing is fun.

Einstein said God does not play dice with the universe.  I think he was wrong.  I think God loves to play dice, or at least God loves to play cards.  God loves cards.  Something like high stakes poker.  You put some cards down, you pick up a few more and whatever shows up in your hand, you make it work.  

Like the Grateful Dead sang –

“Truckin', like a do-dah man.
Once told me "You've got to play your hand"
Sometimes your cards ain't worth a damn,
if you don't lay'em down,

Chaos is a part of this deal we are born into.   

There are tragic stories on the news tonight.  A beautiful sweet corn fed girl from Iowa murdered.  Another murder somewhere else.  People dying in floods.   I think religion is at its worst trying to explain such things.  They can’t be justified.  There is no justice.  Chaos is a part of the deal  we are born into.  We spend our life coming to terms with it.

Think on this – people fear death.  They’ll go to extremes to resist the one thing we know for sure about the future, a day will come when that long black train pulls in for each of us.  We only have a short time on this pale blue dot, teeming with riotous life.  And then what?  An eternity of impersonal existence?  Or what?  Right now, for a little while we have this.  Why not feel all of it all the way?

What are you doing here?  This strange planet with it’s impossible geologic history of near miracles and things that came together so perfectly.  There is no planet like it that we know of and we’ve been looking.  And you get to be here.
How chaotic is that?


  1. Hi, Garce!

    I've never thought about the relationship between chaos and evolution, but I think you're right. If we didn't have chaos, unpredictable and random change, life would stagnate. Then eventually the environment would change, and life couldn't adapt.

    As the Dead say: "What a long, strange trip it's been."

  2. I find it totally amusing that we, as authors, esoteric beings who deal with words and fictions, come to the same conclusions as physicists, who deal with the unknowable. I agree with you, Garce. Existence is chaos. There is no rhyme or reason to life. There is no reward for being good, no punishment for being evil. Anne Rice dealt with that in "Memnoc the Devil", her 3rd, maybe 4th book in her vampire series.

    We're here, then we're gone. And as my Dad told me, the only immortality we can hope for, is that our genes will go on; and maybe, just maybe, for a short while, we will linger on in the memories of those who loved us. Dad used to tell me, long after his mom passed on, that he could still "hear" her voice in his head. And so many times since he's been gone, I "hear" him rambling on in his Scottish brogue. And I smile and say, "Thanks, Dad. Love you still."
    But he's out there...somewhere. The essence of life that used to animate his body, has joined once more with God, the universal source of essence, and yes, of chaos.

  3. Mutations seem like the chaotic factors in evolution, while natural selection is the orderly process. Even mutations aren't exactly random; everything is influenced by something else. A cosmic ray encounters a cell and changes it; the fumes from a volcano affect a growing embryo; there's always a reason, even if we can't detect it. The rhyme part is different, if by that we mean an intentional effect on humanity. But I love the image of God playing poker. The god of writers, though, making use of whatever shows up in their hand, I think of as paying Scrabble.

  4. True, the world is full of apparently random events that somehow contribute to patterns. And we can only see part of it — literally, because our eyesight is different from that of other beings on this earth.


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