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Reflections on Chaos

"...many patterns of Nature are so irregular and fragmented, that, compared with Euclidean geometry, Nature exhibits not simply a higher degree but an altogether different level of complexity … The existence of these patterns challenges us to study these forms that Euclid leaves aside as being "formless," to investigate the morphology of the "amorphous."

-Benoit Mandelbrot

I love the formless. And as my dear friend Aea Luz sings, "the formless has only love for you."

Since I first started sharing creative work in high school, I have always been more inclined to "chaotic" or "formless" expressions of creative energy. Not chaos or formlessness as complete disorder or madness, but chaos as order beyond perception's capacity to assimilate, formlessness as "I don't know what form this is going to take"... creative work in which patterns are unpredictable yet discernible, turbulent yet periodic.

At times, I'll try to reign in the chaos and indeterminacy, be a bit more selective... considerate...but then, the work can feel so contrived and is often unsatisfying. I know that one can be careful with chaos, even precise with it, yet, for me, there must always be a willingness to not know. I can have a sense of where the river is flowing, even a dynamic certainty of sorts, but there's always an essential element of unknowingness. I would rather discover beauty through the process of creation and crystallize that beautiful state into a creative work than attempt to articulate a pre-formed imaginal form of beauty. And if I don't discover beauty or magic through the process of creation - if I can't get a hold of the mojo and transmit it into a piece, and instead make an ungodly mess - so be it. I've learned something. And hey, perhaps my beauty is someone else's ungodly mess, and vice versa. Certainly in fact!

A lot of people get turned off by playing with indeterminacy, be it in improvisation, painting, free associative writing, going to a party. Uncertainty can be scary. Yet, paying close attention to chaos and uncertainty can be a very quieting, calming space. Making room for unknowing in creative work (not to mention in daily life), if the unknowing is truly welcomed in, can be a freeing thing. I would imagine its necessary for sanity actually. There's nothing quite as anxiety provoking for oneself or one's fellows as the impulsive will to control, to shape the unfolding of life to fit the fickle personality's distorted ends. Undoubtedly, this impulse works on massive scales, attempting to shape peoples, cultures, markets, and beyond. Organic forms are so much more friendly than the dense, predictable desires of the conditioned personality.

I remember one large group musical improvisation I was a part of. There were about ten musicians in the ensemble. At one point, the music was absolutely soaring at a peak of intensity. All of us in the ensemble were playing full force, loud, wild, crazy freedom... and I felt totally at peace, as if seated calmly in the eye of a storm, awe struck by a quietude that cradled everything. All around me, throughout the space, titanic waves of sonic energy were storming like mad, rattling the walls and windows, yet the inner experience was one of radical calm. Now that was a miraculous vantage point.

For a long while I was very interested in Jungian psychology. I came across a wonderful little book that helped me make sense of my own process, Chaos and Strange Attractors, by an analyst named John Van Eenwyk.

For him, the unconscious dynamics of the psyche are chaotic systems, that is, they are flows of energy that have a hyper-sensitivity to "initial conditions", display aperiodic, unpredictable patterns which exhibit a discernible form (think of a cloud), and... they are dynamic systems whose output is reintroduced into the system. Feedback loops baby. And symbols, such as those we see in art, are "snapshots" or "slices" of these dynamics. Hence, symbols aren't something to be interpreted, but are doorways into psychological dynamics to be experienced. "What seems to be a recognizable image is actually a configuration of motions frozen in time and space."

When I'm creating, when it's really happening, the engagement with "a psychological dynamic" is taking up the whole of conscious awareness. The sense of self and authorship is diminished when experienced in relation to an overarching psychic flow. I can't slow down the river, can't rush it either. Just stay afloat.

When I consider this, I start to feel that the end result of the piece really becomes unimportant. What it looks like or how it sounds is not what is vital. What is vital is the engagement with these frequencies of subjectivity. It's as if the whole of attention best be offered to the subjective experience of creation, not to the finished piece, not to the concerns of how it will look or sound or affect the audience, but to the very act of creation. Sometimes the form comes out clear, precise, exact, other times in a glorious disarray of beautiful mayhem. However my personality reacts to the end result, I try not to take it too seriously. Move on and do it again, and again, and again. Concoct symbolic experiences for yourself and your fellows through the process of creation, and crystallize these dynamic doorways into artistic work. The whole of consciousness then rejoices.

thanks for reading

The above painting...


3' x 4'

acrylic on canvas

for sale

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