The Conditions of Uncertainty-Chaos

"Chaos is a friend of mine." -Bob Dylan


The third condition of uncertainty is chaos. Conventional definitions suggest that chaos is "behavior so unpredictable as to appear random; formlessness."


Many of us hear the word and summon images of lawlessness, pandemonium and disorder. It's important to understand the etymology of chaos in order that we penetrate conventional attitudes and look deeper at the opportunity that this condition provides.


In Greek mythology, the first created being was called Chaos. From Chaos came the primeval deities Gaia, Tartarus, Erebus and Nyx. The Greeks can teach us something about this state of uncertainty. They saw chaos as the creative void from which new forms emerge.


If we subscribe to this definition, Chaos can be held not as a threat but as an opportunity to generate something new. This might carry us a little closer to what the enigmatic Mr. Dylan means by his friendship with Chaos.


In Visionmaking, creativity is seen as the ability to create something from nothing. That process is not unlike entering chaos -the void- and re-emerging with something new as a result of the adventure into formlessness.


When we create from what we already know, it is called innovation. Visionmakers think of this as the ability to create something from something. This form of creativity is anchored in certainty, rather than uncertainty because it seeks to improve on or modify forms that we are already familiar with.


Creativity, on the other hand, has us enter uncertainty to do a deep dive into the unknown. We may return with nothing. Or we may discover something wonderful, something we never knew existed within us.


Chaos is also a state where we recognize that everything we have, know, have done and have been are no longer a legal currency in the territory of the unknown. They buy us nothing in the face of the unfathomable. Chaos has stripped these arrows from our quiver and we must count on something else to carry the day. What that something might be is never known in advance. It is a mystery that is only revealed in the encounter with chaos.


Carlos Castaneda leaves us with something important to think about with respect to chaos and uncertainty, something that suggests to us that our growth and development is limited by the territory of familiarity:


"It is important to do what you don't know how to do. It is important to see your skills as keeping you from learning what is deepest and most mysterious. If you know how to focus, unfocus. If your tendency is to make sense out of chaos, start chaos."


© Patrick O’Neill 2009. All rights reserved.

Posted on July 11, 2009 and filed under Uncertainty.