“And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness covered the face of the deep.” Genesis 1:2, NKJV. Other translations say “all was chaos.” Some people maintain that this is the first mention of lawyers in the Bible, while others sigh and say that obviously, the US Marine Corps had been there (“chaos” translation).
All jokes aside, the idea of everything being intermixed and formless and swirling and without order or form appears in a number of faith traditions around the world. And then a Creator, often aided by different spirits and/or animals, creates order from that chaos and the world comes into being. Chaos is not good. Order of some kind is better. We humans do best when we can find order in our lives—not so much that we are reduced to near-automata, but a basic structure of some kind, sort of a theme that supports the variations.
It seems today that the pro-chaos people are winning. Or if not winning, at least happily sowing chaos and overturning order without having a better system to set in its place.
I got to thinking about this in the context of a discussion about housecleaning, and the discomfort of trying to live amongst chaos, even for short spans of time. You know that eventually the boxes sill get unpacked, places will be found for everything, and order will return. But for the moment, surrounded by half-unpacked crates, packing materials, and the sudden discovery that you need to clean both bathrooms ASAP before you can move the bathroom stuff into them, chaos is miserably stressful and uncomfortable.
For all the jokes about the Marines (and other military branches) and chaos, there is a discipline and order within the chaos. The chaos is imposed on the Bad Guys, while the discipline and planning of the Good Guys creates a new order, one that favors them. Granted, no plan survives the first contact with the enemy, and the Fickle Finger of Fate tends to be the extended central digit, and chaos happily creeps back in when least expected. But discipline and order remain on the small-scale, and they gradually expand to the larger scale. At least, if all goes as hoped.
So, back to housecleaning. Jordan Peterson’s name was mentioned, because his book of rules serves as a very usable antidote to the chaos that society’s enemies seem intent on producing. Peterson has no problem saying “This is real, and True, and Good. That is counterproductive, and leads to bad outcomes.” Because of this, and other things, he is unpopular with the people who think that chaos is better than a flawed order. The Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, do something similar. “These behaviors are good for society and you. These are bad. Don’t do the bad things.”
You might not agree with Peterson’s why, and you might prefer overtly religious dictates and reasoning, but the point is that both ways are about creating order so that people can be safe, happy, and successful, or at least as much as circumstances and Fate allows. Chaos never goes away entirely (see the Second Law of Thermodynamics)*. But creating a framework for people to have set boundaries and definitions of what and who and when, that takes a lot of pressure and stress away. Then, when chaos does strike, people are better able to survive and recover. Without some framework for what one does when, and how to deal with people, and what behaviors are not tolerated, a small flick of Fate’s Fickle Finger leads to personal and sometimes societal disaster.
“But I wanna be me! I wanna be free! I need to express my authentic self, to love the one I want even if he is happily married to someone else right now. You are not the boss of me. I want to do what I want and I’m not hurting anyone. Your so-called rules are just tools for the patriarchy and racism.”
What about yourself? What about your “true love’s” wife and children? How can you know your authentic expression from poor copies of other people’s art, music, crafts, personal style? You want to ingest every recreational pharmaceutical you can afford? What if you end up a ward of the state with the mental capacity of a sun-dried tomato? Or you go nuts, attack innocent people, and cause all sorts of ruin as you try to “bliss out” and instead have a really horrible trip? Peterson would say, “Why are you treating yourself worse than you treat your dog, cat, or goldfish?” Religions say, “You are made in the image of G-d. Why do you desecrate that image?” Why are you beckoning chaos?
The people who want to tear down western civilization because it is not perfect do not have a solid New World in mind, at least not those I’ve spoken to and listened to. They want to tear down the old system, and then Something Happens, and the new, perfect world of total equality and paradise-on-Earth will arrive. They want chaos because they think order will emerge from it, and that chaos can be limited easily. They think they can create a pocket of chaos that destroys “the patriarchy” or “organized religion” and that it will not spread to what they value. I have yet to see a better, happier world appear out of chaos without some really miserable times and an amazing amount of hard work first. They are the sort of people who imagine that a world without legally owned firearms will be like a happy Montessori school, and not like Beirut and southern Lebanon in the 1980s, or parts of Sweden today**. In some of their minds, a world without sexes, without relationships based on mutual respect and responsibility, and without understanding that the sexual act has very major repercussions is one big happy party—pleasure with anyone and anything has absolutely no consequences. They don’t see the serpents in the garden, the jealousy, heartbreaks, the STDs, or the accusations of [whatever]ism if they turn down a would-be lover’s demands.
Chaos is not pretty. Chaos in the beginning was temporary, a state of potential before $DEITY$ created order by shaping and molding the materials of chaos into a world that was (and is) very good. But we are not supposed to long for chaos. We mortals cannot shape society and order out of nothing. We are not happy when surrounded by endless disorder, by churning uncertainty and constantly changing and reforming conditions. We crave order, and try to make it. There are good, healthy sources of order, and unhealthy ones. If the good ones are torn down because they are not perfect, it is not better ones that magically appear in their place.
Good housekeeping is an art and a skill. It takes time, and can look dreadfully dull from outside. Good society-keeping is the same.
*The universe tends towards disorder.
**Those places where European women cannot walk safely even by daylight, and no one, except the Army, dares venture after dark.