Seven Life Lessons of Chaos – John Briggs and David Peat

 Book         Seven Life Lessons of ChaosAuthor       John Briggs and F. David Peat

Publisher   Harper Collins, 1999

Rating   5-star

If you have ever felt that life was out of control and headed towards chaos, science has an important message:  Life is chaos , and that’s a very exciting thing.

While humans have had to deal with chaos since ancient times, only recently has science recognized it as a fundamental force in the universe.

Chaos theory, originally used to understand the movements that create thunderstorms, raging rivers, and hurricanes, is now being applied to everything from medicine to warfare to social dynamics and theories about how organizations form and change. Chaos is evolving from a scientific theory into a cultural metaphor. As a metaphor it allows us to query some of our most cherished assumptions and encourages us to ask fresh questions about reality.

Our modern society has been obsessed with conquering and scientifically controlling the world around us. However, chaotic, nonlinear systems – such as nature, society, and our individual lives – lie beyond all our attempts to predict, manipulate, and control them. Chaos suggests that instead of resisting life’s uncertainties, we should embrace the possibilities they offer.

“Although we humans tend to abhor chaos and avoid it whenever possible, nature uses chaos in remarkable ways to create new entities, shape events and hold the Universe together” (p1).

Chaos is a subtle yet powerful underlying interconnectedness that exists in apparently random events. Chaos science focuses on hidden patterns, nuance, the “sensitivity of things” and the “rules” for how the unpredictable leads to the new.

This book outlines seven lessons for embracing chaos in our everyday lives:

  • Be creative – engage with chaos to find imaginative solutions and live more dynamically.
  • Use butterfly power – let chaos grow local efforts into global results like a ripple effect.
  • Go with the flow – use chaos to work collectively with others.
  • Explore what’s between – discover life’s rich subtleties and avoid the traps of stereotypes.  Simple things have within them a hidden complexity, and complex things have within them a hidden simplicity,
  • See art in the world – appreciate the beauty of life’s chaos. Fractals exist within mathematics and within nature.  See the beauty in all things from microcosm to macrocosm.
  • Live within time – utilize times hidden depths.  Our lives have different time rhythms.  When we live with these rhythms in harmony with the flow of time, and our lives will be much more meaningful.
  • Rejoin the whole – realize our fractal connectedness to each other and the world.  We need to remember that we are part of the whole and that everything we do effects everything else (Systems thinking).

Ultimately though, chaos theorists point out that in principle and in practice there will always be missing information.  Chaos theory takes us to the edge of current thinking and in itself creates the mental chaos necessary for creativity in which the mind shifts and self-reorganizes its perception of reality.  It is a process of continually asking ourselves, What questions should I ask?”

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