I’m in British Columbia right now, in a pine forest on the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island. And it’s a total mess.
There are broken branches and tangled weeds all over the ground. Dead trees lying right next to live ones. Stuff just grows any which way. In any give space you might step on a bunch of animal waste. The birds, rabbits, deer, and bears don’t give it a second thought, they just ramble around as if all this disorder is normal.
I’m kidding, of course. This is a lovely, peaceful, soul-healing place. The disorder is part of it . . . it does what it wants, and you just immerse yourself in it.
But why is disorder wonderful here and awful in other places?
If you had this level of crap lying around in the floor in your house or office, you’d be stressed. You’d put effort into cleaning it up, and then you’d feel like you’d done a great service to yourself and anyone else visiting.
If your hard drive or cloud storage had this level of disorder, you’d be unable to work effectively. If your code had this level randomness, it would be unusable and impossible to maintain.
But disorder is the natural state of things. It’s an actual freakin’ law of the universe: the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy always increases.
Our work days are chaotic — you never know when a crisis will hit, or a client will demand help, or an opportunity will arise that you really must jump on right now.
And our lives our chaotic. A child falls down the stairs. A parent gets diagnosed with cancer. A house burns down. A lover breaks faith. A friend needs help. These are things you can prepare for, but you cannot plan for them.
And yet, we constantly strive to restore order. We cannot tolerate the chaos; the urge to restore order and balance is as human as love or speech.
So why does the chaos of nature restore us?
I cannot cease my own desire to create order, any more than anyone else can. I have an engineer’s instinct to solve problems, a mathematician’s tendency to find patterns, a writer’s desire to make sense of things.
What I may do differently from now on is to appreciate the majesty of chaos for a moment before I go back to fighting it.