I’ve been thinking a lot lately about order and chaos, about how they’re showing up in the world and also about the necessary balance of them within relationship. It’s clear that we are living in unprecedented times. The world is changing and everywhere we look we can see the failings of the old way of doing things as old paradigms break down. Whether we look at the political system, economics, environment, media, social systems – everything is changing rapidly and failing. New levels of chaos are being seen as both the rate of change intensifies and our old systems fail. Our minds, that have been developed to adapt to slow, steady change, are no longer able to assimilate the fast pace of transformation that we’re seeing in the world and so we easily feel overwhelm. Our capacity to determine meaning in such a rapidly changing environment is breaking down.
One reaction to this greater chaos is a growing call for order
At one level that is taking the form of a resurgence of right-wing values that promise renewed order to combat externalized threats (think Trump, Brexit, etc). Governments that offer to protect their citizens from the ‘dangerous other’ from the outside (be that Islamic State or Russia or whatever) are gaining ground politically.
But change is necessary for growth. It is an evolutionary impulse. If systems remained static they would not develop. Some level of chaos is therefore a good thing. This however needs to be balanced by a degree of order. Too much order and nothing changes, we stagnate, Life cannot find a way through. Too much chaos and we lose coherence, nothing can move forward in a purposeful direction. In nature we find the perfect balance of order and chaos. Life keeps evolving, shifting, ever-changing but there is an underlying structure to nature that holds it together; from the most basic laws of physics, chemistry and biology to the impulses in our DNA to replicate itself.
The Taoist yin yang symbol is a beautiful example of this balance of order and chaos. The black yin element may be said to represent chaos, the ever-changing feminine or principle of Life. The white yang, order. The symbol is perfectly balanced between the two, and within each lies the essence of the other. The line between the two shapes is the middle line, the way that is the true path. That line the Tao.
So as society moves into a more chaotic phase there is a necessary call to order.
However the true call for order is not to exert power of others and control its citizens as some political systems are trying to do, but to gain mastery over one’s inner landscape. A large part of my work has always been about supporting the growth of what Louise and I call Emotional Tolerance, that is, our ability to sit with uncomfortable feelings and tolerate them, building emotional resilience. When we do this we maintain our inner Sovereignty, even in challenging situations. Whenever we feel overwhelmed we lose our Sovereignty and become reactive. When we lose our Sovereignty we come out of connection with ourselves, with others and with Love.
Our ability to stay in connection with Love is going to become increasingly important in the times ahead as the chaos increases
Developing our Emotional Tolerance is a key step in this journey. When we do that we are no longer tossed about by the whims of fate, making ourselves victims of what Life throws at us, but we can begin to master our life. When we are truly in our Sovereignty we can begin not only to adapt to the shifting paradigm but create new ones. Again this will become increasingly important as the old order continues to fail and systems collapse. We will need to create a new society based not on fear, but on Love, based on collective intelligence and shared wisdom, a society that is not constrained by rational thinking but that can embrace the mytho-poetic, the sacred and magical worlds to which we essentially need to reconnect in order to move through these turbulent times.