Lately something dawned on me that was apparent and obvious in my life and research all along – That the Creative life force takes its energy and power from Chaos. I mean like many of you I had heard and conceptually worked with the idea of the duality between the Creative and Destructive force, Order and Chaos, Life and Entropy and how they are ultimately two facets of the same coin. Yet this time it struck me on a different note. It wasn’t conceptual grasping but a deeper intuitive assimilation of the idea into my consciousness.
However you look at it, creativity not only happens despite of chaos or uncertainty but it only happens because of it. Chaos and disorder are the requisite precursors to creative change. It is also conceptually and linguistically obvious since you cannot create something that has been formed and set already but creation is the process of forming something new out of ‘nothing’ or ‘chaos’.
When I was studying how intelligent systems behave some years ago for a thesis, it became apparent that intelligent systems self-organise themselves by first momentarily breaking down when the system faces novelty, uncertainty or a mismatch between its internal structures and its environment. This is true for all systems whether microbiological, humans, social systems, eco-systems, etc. In short, for there to be creative change in any system, there must first be a temporary system crisis whereby old structures are broken, making way for new levels of organisation. This continuous cycle of recreation is at the heart of evolution whether biological, consciousness and spiritual.
The idea is fascinating but more importantly it is a lesson to learn and integrate into our life perspective. For most of us the idea may sound very counter-intuitive because when we face uncertainty about the future or live through turbulent and chaotic times, we feel that we cut ourselves off from the creative life force and get withdrawn, feel dull, demotivated and even perhaps depressed, which is the epitome of lack of creativity and joy.
This is because we get overwhelmed by fear and anxiety…we get simply lost. Yet this happens not because we face uncertainty and chaos but because of our attitude towards it. Attitude is the magical ingredient that changes the recipe, the cook and the whole kitchen around him for that matter!
So what are the attitudes that we need to adopt to reconnect to the creative life force in a chaotic and ever-changing world?
Real innovation always happens at the fringes of society and never at the core of the mainstream. Innovators are usually people who are following their passion despite facing opposition and being in conflict with the mainstream thinking and way of doing things.
The innovator lies at the outskirts of society – just where normalcy meets chaos and disorder. In fact the innovator is at ease with being on this border and also thrives in it. He or she doesn’t seek to get in the fold of group thinking or morality but would rather stay on the outside tinkering with uncertainty, chaos and change. This is where the innovator gets the creative force. One cannot easily get such creative power of innovation through following the comfort zone of herd thinking and anaesthetised living.
If you ever watched the TV series ‘Fringe’ it can summon up some relevant points. The series was about an extended arm of the FBI called the ‘Fringe Division’ composed of a motley crew – Dr. Walter Bishop, the mad scientist archetype and his son Peter, FBI agent Olivia Dunham and agent Astrid Farnsworth. The Fringe team had the task to solve mysterious out-of-the-ordinary type of cases while trying to keep two parallel universes from annihilating each other. The main hub was Dr.Bishop’s old Lab in a forgotten basement space at Harvard University. This was the ‘Fringe Lab’ – where the innovative genius of Dr.Bishop was at work coming up with creative solution to seemingly insolvable problems.
The ‘Fringe Lab’ is the perfect analogy to innovation and innovators. In order to deal with the ‘monstrosity’ of a highly chaotic and unpredictable world, the innovator returns to his ‘fringe lab’, puts on his creative thinking hat and puts all his enthusiasm and focus on solving issues despite of mainstream society thinking he or she is totally nuts. This is what the innovator attitude is all about and this is the key to not only surviving but thriving in a messy and fuzzy world.
In our personal lives we can also adopt the innovator attitude by first questioning how deep are we sucked in the comfort zone of herd thinking. We then need to find our ‘Fringe Lab’, that space and courage to be different and follow our authentic aspirations, motivations and passions. Screw what others think – really. Be yourself and see what happens. You will slowly get out of your comfort zone, the system and start not only dealing with all the uncertainty and chaos that you face in life but actually realise that it is funding your fringe lab! Be smart, be cool, be different
As they say a good sailor is one that is always a sailor whether in clear blue waters or nightmarish sea storms. That means that a good sailor represents constancy in the face of calmness or storm, glory or tragedy, rough times or good times. A sailor navigates the seven seas and deals with lots of change – it’s never the same dock or scenery for too long. The only constant in life for the sailor is change. Once again, the sailor doesn’t only deal with an ever-changing world but thrives in it. It’s what makes the sailor a true sailor.
Similarly we need to understand and learn the sailor’s constancy in change and adopt it to our lives. How does the sailor do it? The secret is with an open heart and being OK with all the experiences that arise without attaching yourself to them or being averse to them. Openness means allowing any experience to come and go without forming judgments or struggling with it.
When you approach life situations with an open heart, you not only are OK with undesirable or unpredictable situations but you graciously seek the lesson in them. “What can I learn from this unwanted turn out of events?”, “How can I embrace it within my life and make use of it?”. This particular attitude of openness will give you the power to find constancy in an unstable world. You no longer sway with the ups and downs of life but elegantly navigate through them with an open heart and mind. You become a real sailor of life.
When we face setbacks and disruptions due to unforeseen changes, we lose our focus on our goals. In turn this makes us lose balance and we get easily swept away by the currents of life or get stuck in what we perceive as obstacles. This stops our vital creative force to flow through us. We lose our vision and inspiration. We end up being unamused by life and generally fall into a moment of stagnation and dullness.
The mountaineer has always his or her eyes on the ultimate goal – that last ascent to the peak. Of course any mountaineering journey is full of obstacles, challenges and setbacks. Adverse weather conditions, injuries, extreme cold and team mates leaving the group because of problems. The biggest challenge of the mountaineer is not physical but mental. He or she has to keep self-motivated and turn his/her mental eyes away from the immediate problem and back to the ultimate goal. Hence all turbulence, challenges and unpredictable changes are overcome by being driven by the bigger picture.
Similarly one can see our life as the mountaineer’s journey – full of challenges, adversities and unpredictable circumstance that change all the time. In order to keep ourselves from being self-defeated we need to turn our eyes, and our focus, away from temporary setbacks and keep them steady on the bigger picture – our mission and purpose in life. Whenever you face a difficult situation or an unexpected turn of events, perhaps even a plan gone into total chaos, there is one important thing necessary for you to do and that is find that vision, that peak that will keep you get back on your tracks and keep you going.
Navigating through changes, uncertainty and chaos requires the constant healing of oneself. By healing I mean transcending beyond fear and the disconnection with our inner self – our source of power and creativity. So all the rough waters that cause temporary anxiety, fear of the unknown and a disconnection from oneself require some form of healing.
It requires us to become healers and heal our wounds and our sense of separation with the changing world. In fact what most people feel when their whole world has changed beyond recognition is a big sense of separation – a distance from their past, their comfort zones, their points of reference. This feeling of separation is what creates unnecessary suffering which in turn we attribute to an unstable world rather than to our inability to heal ourselves.
We heal ourselves through acceptance, letting go and reconciliation. The suffering comes from a part of us clinging to our old selves, our way of life, our reference points. There is a widening gap between our present and past and often we get emotionally sucked into this gap. The healer knows that to get past the gap you need to allow yourself to reconcile the old and the new – more specifically by creating space to accommodate the new.
This is achieved through an exercise of letting go, trusting and accepting that it’s OK not to be OK sometimes. There is an element of self-love and forgiveness – even gentleness I would add. Sometimes it feels not easy but this is because we fail to go beyond the initial inertia. Once we give that first push and look at our ailment with gentle acceptance and self-love, the hardness begins to melt away into softness. The frenetic worrying eases away and slows down, thus making space for the new to be accepted in. If we keep on banging our heads on the problem or seeking what has passed and changed we will never allow this space to be created hence ourselves to be healed.
Bringing in the archetype or analogy to the hermit may seem inappropriate or even counter-intuitive. After all the hermit is someone who has purposely withdrawn from the frenetic life and went to live somewhere cut off from the hustle and bustle of modern life – hence away from the chaos and instability that it brings. Yet isolation is not the only trait of the hermit.
The hermit is also someone who looks inwards. His journey is towards an inward path and hence the deliberate choice to move away from the outward path. We do not need to live in caves or move away from civilisation to use this trait of the hermit.
One of the effects of living in an ever-changing and increasingly unpredictable world is that we lose our internal focus. We forget to return to ourselves and find our inner workings. The more we forget to do this, the more we are left open to be swung in all directions by the currents of life. Returning to the inward path can be followed in many different ways – spiritual retreats, time alone, meditation, authentic heart to heart conversations, spiritual practice, contemplation, journeying, etc. Following the inward path is one of the best ways to keep connected to our creative power amidst change and chaos.
If like me you are not very articulate in the dancing arts – errr, totally clueless is more like it – whenever you give it a shot at dancing you look more like someone in pain than someone who is dancing
Of course once you start getting the hang of it you realise that you need to go with the flow, follow the rhythm and the flow of energy and go where it takes you. Rigidity starts dissolving into elegant movements, inertia makes way for flow. For the more experienced dancer, it becomes second nature to go with the flow and the rhythm and more importantly to break free from rigidity.
We also need to dance to life in order to flow gracefully through change and unpredictability. At first we are rigid and the first movements are an eyesore. Yet as in dancing, we need to overcome this resistance and learn to flow with the rhythm. The more we let ourselves go with it, the easier it becomes and even if the tempo changes from one song to another, we quickly adapt our movements to it. We become experienced dancers.
The power of the dancer’s attitude is to let oneself be guided by the rhythm no matter if he or she doesn’t know the beat or it changes from one to another. It doesn’t matter because the dancer trusts her abilities and also let’s herself go with the music. It’s easy once you let your body move and get past the inertia. Same thing with life – let go the mental rigidity; let yourself move with the changing rhythms and most importantly it’s perfectly OK if you slip that one time. Get back on the floor and dance to the music again. Enjoy!