Chaos Theory

If I was charmed by anything in Michael Crichton's besides, you know, dinosaurs, it was Dr. Ian Malcolm's diatribe on chaos theory as it pertained to the dangers of the park. I couldn't explain any of it to you at gunpoint, but it made perfect sense to me at the time. Still does.

The idea of an ordered universe has a certain appeal. Is there any lovelier fantasy that that of the music of the spheres? Does anything make more sense than the Newtonian world of cause and effect? How can we wish to live other than within the natural order of things?

I submit that the prime mover of human history has been the effort to bring order out of chaos. I'm as OCD as the next guy, right there with history, in the constant battle to bring order to my house, to my day, to my life.

And therein lies a clue to the paradox. If we live in an ordered universe, why is it such a battle to impose order on it? If the music of the spheres sings us to sleep at night, why don't our causes have the desired effects? Why does so much actual order seem so unnatural?

One of the facts of life in my little family is that my darling daughter has chaos energy. No, she's not autistic or developmentally disabled in any way. She is extremely bright and energetic and determined. She's a force of nature in her own right. She is my own non-mathematical proof of the reality of chaos theory.

Somehow, when she comes into a room, papers drift off of tables to hiding places under the couch, small tinkling sounds are heard as something tumbles off the end of the mantelpiece. Books rearrange themselves in the bookcases, scarves on the coat tree slip to the floor, familiar food disappears from the fridge and strange food appears. When she is gone, you discover that something has broken, something in a part of the house where she hasn't been. My daughter is a ripple across the planetary planes, a cause of unintended effects, a merry thumb in the eye of the natural order of things.

It's not that I don't believe that there isn't a pattern, a method to the madness. Fractals and Fibonacci numbers suggest possibilities. In the meantime, my daughter isn't the only human butterfly wing making waves. Each one of us is, in our own way, causing ripples with untold effects. Even sedentary me.

Outside my window, a squirrel has just run up the trellis, then down again. The rattle of his passing sounded a beat beneath the whisper of leaves brushing together in his wake. I have no way of knowing what effect he was after, running up, or what caused him to run down. He's part of the natural order of things, but he's not very orderly in any way that I can see.

Chaos theory. I can see where the idea itself might cause anxiety. I get a little anxious when my daughter visits. When she comes, something I hadn't foreseen changes. Just a little. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes I have to put something right. But I miss her when she's gone. Order isn't always all it's cracked up to be. Without the chaos all around us, what in the world would we do?