Accepting That The River Is Chaos

“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”

-Carl Jung

Everyone creates a philosophy of life whether they intend to or not. It’s an inevitability of living life with a human’s advanced brain. It was thought for a long time that humans brains were advanced because they had more neurons and a bigger cerebral cortex. But it appears that notion is incorrect. Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a neuroscientist at the Institute of Biomedical Science in Rio de Janeiro, measured our brain neurons in comparison to other species and found them to be analogous in accordance to weight and size. One possible and probable theory that explains our brain’s curious ability to come up with pyramids and blockchains is our brain’s plasticity. Essentially, our brains development is less dictated by genetics than other species.

Our ability to adapt and evolve is what sets us apart from other species, in other words, our mutability in the face of challenges and problems. Human creativity knows no bounds, and yet paradoxically we are the only species that questions “why” we exist, instead of simply existing. This is the flipside of our creativity — the excess creativity feeds our soul’s search for meaning in existence and creates ontological landscapes for us to travel. No other creature questions the nature of being.

Why not?

Because they live in the present. They live to fulfill their instincts. Their brains are genetically predisposed to stay in the moment to survive.

Humans have a brain mutation that sparked an evolutionary increase in its size and plasticity, derived from our cleverness at hunting meat, and fueled by the superior digestibility as fuel for the body that meat provides. Over a hundred thousand years of this advantage has led us to where we are now, so clever that we have wreaked havoc on the climate, the soil, the oceans, and the wildlife of the planet.

So one thing is clear: Cleverness doesn’t protect life. Our cognitive abilities are on par with other intelligent animals, in many ways they are our peers on the planet, but our ability to adapt to situations and change the way we think in order to evolve is far more advanced, in terms of survival.

We show a unique ability to overcome all odds and strive forward confidently in the face of adversity that the rest of the animal kingdom simply does not share.

This line of thinking reminds me of this cartoon:

The beauty of animals, other than humans, is that they act in accordance with what is needed- they live in the present, even though many learn from the past. They don’t interact with the ideas of the past and future in the same way that we do.

One thing that is unique to humans is that we construct what we call a philosophy from the raw stuff of our own life. The only equivalent to philosophy in an animal is instinct and memory, genetic and otherwise.

Philosophies are generally made up of an idea or multiple ideas that resonate with our life experiences. We string together these ideas in a linear or logical way and they guide us through our lives as a sort of code for living. Some philosophies tend toward scientific ideas, and others toward magical ones. One is based on cold hard evidence, and the other on feelings.

The issue is that feelings and ideas are both quite real in a human being. Whenever we tip the scale toward one or the other, we lose an entire aspect of ourselves. Some brain researchers have posited that the right side of the brain is focused on feelings and creativity, and the left side of the brain is focused on analysis and logical thought.

In the human body we find a surplus of duality and balanced features. Two feet, two hands, two eyes, two hemispheres of the brain. In many ways these features balance each other out and provide a wider range of sensory input from which to experience the world. It’s an evolutionary strategy to increase our likelihood of survival. In the animal world this is called bilateral symmetry and is prevalent across most species. Evolutionary it was already taking place more then 500 million years ago.

Symmetry is an incredibly important part of the human worldview, which depends on the symmetry of math as well as the apparently immutable laws of physics. If an equation doesn’t balance out, in our thinking, it doesn’t hold true.

In our highest held ideals, in love and marriage, we find the idea of symmetry as inevitability, as a man and woman are wed. (Perhaps this explains bigoted man’s inability to accept other types of marriage and love, as well as non-binary genders and relationships, but that is an entirely different article.)

All of which leads to the seminal importance that we place on the idea of truth and justice. Lady Justice is commonly pictured with a sword on one side and a scale on the other, balancing fairness with judgment. One of our most brilliant humans, Leonardo da Vinci, drew the iconic Vitruvian Man as a balanced and circular creature.

Our philosophies of life tend to favor balance of some sort. Whether it is the Christian God’s sacrificial son, or the Yogic idea of karma, in our minds the most important aspect of life is to maintain the balance of the cosmos, or at least our homes. All gods must have an equal and opposite devil, and all heavens must be matched by hells.

What goes around, comes around. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Humanity strives toward balance in our philosophies even as we disrupt ecologies and weather patterns, all in the name of assuaging our fear of asymmetry.

Perhaps the most important facet of Chaos Theory and Fractals is that they teach us that, unlike Euclidean geometry, the true values in nature operate on a multiple levels, that is to say that the true balance in nature isn’t necessarily based in any one dimensional space, but in the fractal nature of reality.

The issue with Euclidean geometry is that we find no true rectangles or circles in the natural world, i.e. the cosmos. As useful as it has been to further our own creativity, this way of measuring the world obviously lacks the truth of observation. Even one single perfect structure created in nature will immediately began to erode and become unbalanced to some infinitesimal but significant degree.

What does this say, but that “nature abhors a balance”?

Chaos theory predicts that any alteration in initial circumstances will ultimately throw a balanced equation out of whack. It than goes on to create a mathematical structure of the dynamic systems that simulate this so-called chaos. In this field we find a much more realistic depiction of the natural processes of the universe, expanding on Newtonian physics.

But how does that relate to our own philosophies of life?

Most certainly balance is an incredibly important concept. But perhaps it is time to move beyond that idea and explore the fractal nature of reality. In terms of day-to-day life, this means to come to understand how the smallest things in our lives impact the largest things, or vice versa.

Only when we can see with eyes unclouded can we take action to create balance in our lives. When we attempt to create a macro-balance without examining the fractal micro-nature of our lives, it is like trying to straighten a river. Only when we can accept that the river is bendy and crooked, and revel in that mad convoluted chaos, can we began to enjoy the journey.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store