Saturday, March 03, 2012

Chaos Happens, Deal With It

Science keeps trying to understand things and that's what I love about it.  We may get it wrong, but even those mistakes help us learn more.  Curiosity is essential to learning, but also humility.  Never think you know something for sure because the next discovery will prove you're wrong.  So I really have a hard time with philosophical systems that claim to base their theories in scientific fact, even though I appreciate scientific fact I also know how changeable those facts can be.  The theories known collectively as the Law of Attraction are a good example of this.  The human brain is wired to recognize patterns or even create patterns from randomness, therefore it's no wonder a lot of people have noticed the pattern that happens when one projects a positive outlook, positive thoughts, positive emotions, and positive actions.  They get positive returns.  This is not what bothers me about the theories.  What bothers me is that they then take the leap to say therefore, whatever conditions are in your life now are a direct result of your thoughts, outlook, emotions, and actions attracting them to you.  Well, yes but no.  What these folks neglect to factor in is chaos.



The common meaning of "chaos" is a state of disorder and anyone who has seen an average teenager's bedroom knows about that.  But there is a mathematical version of chaos that is more precise and which affects how things play out in life.  It has to do with the elements being sensitive to the conditions around them and thereby changing, even slightly, which then effect change in elements that are in close proximity to them.  The result is that even though the elements themselves are deterministic, meaning one can predict the future behavior of each of these initial elements alone, but because the initial elements patterns are mutable in combination with the other elements around it, how they affect the elements around them varies so widely and yield so many diverging outcomes, long term accurate prediction is virtually impossible.  An example of this can be seen in meteorology and in tarot reading. Tracking weather patterns and situational patterns in tarot is an estimating game at best and we know how sensitive the conditions can be to last minute changes and surprising outcomes.   It's called "chaos theory" and while we know it when we see it in play, we can't predict it. 

Complex Chaos Pattern
You might know this pattern also by the term "Butterfly Effect," coined as a result of a paper written in 1972 by scientist Edward Lorenz entitled: Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas? A popular movie by the same name, The Butterfly Effect, explored the idea in one man's life, to sometimes humorous and other times tragic results, by allowing him to relive certain pivotal moments in his life and make changes in how he responded.  Who hasn't wished they could go back in time and change our choices?  What would have happened, how would your life played out if you had done this instead of that?  But since no one has yet been able to build a workable time machine, we can only use this knowledge for present and future events, and it's not terribly useful when the whole concept tells us we can't know results for certain.

In my experience, the Law of Attraction works about as well as cloud seeding.  You can do your part in creating the conditions, but you're not the only gear in the machinery.  The promoters of  LoA don't deny this, but they say to just leave all that "up to the Universe."  And I've got no problem with that, either.  What I have a problem with is the idea that we each control everything that happens to us, consciously or subconsciously.  How can we when so many other factors and Butterfly Effects from so many other elements are in play?  The LoA theory states that if we put forth an energy frequency by thinking, feeling, and acting on those thoughts and feelings, the Universe will respond by orchestrating all those "Butterfly Effects" in domino-like fashion and the end result will be seen in our experience, in our lives.  Not a bad theory and it does have support in discoveries made by quantum physicists, but again, it is a theory not a fact.  Just because we see the patterns doesn't mean it's working the way we  think it is.

I'm not dissing the theory at all.  I've seen it in action in my own life plenty of times.  I'm just not going to buy that I control everything that I experience.  I'm not going to take credit for only the good things that happen, either, while dismissing the negative.  I understand that I can invite negative things into my life as easily as I can invite positive things.  I just don't accept that I invited them ALL.  This kind of thinking is just another version of those who say the reason you're sick is because you sinned and you just need to search your soul for that sin then confess and repent.  Or you lost your spouse because you chose this life experience before you were born because your soul knew you needed to learn this lesson.  Or you got raped because you wore a short skirt.  It's all the same victim blaming bullshit and I won't participate in that.  I raise an eyebrow toward any theory that doesn't factor in chaos.  Shit happens and it doesn't always happen "for a reason."

From what I have seen, the theory does seem to be evolving.  More and more people who practice some form of LoA are accepting that there simply are things that happen to us that we did not specifically attract and so are shifting their focus towards our conscious responses to the random that happens in our lives as well as positively projecting that which we want.  I appreciate that kind of thinking and it resonates more with what we understand about chaos and its impact on systems.

My son, Ryan, has been a lifelong pessimist.  This character trait has been evident for as long as he could express feelings.  Generating excitement about a future event such as a party, a trip, or virtually anything fun was difficult with him and always met with some version of, "I don't want to go", "It's not going to be fun" or, "Why do I have to go?"  So I'd drag him to these events and consequently he would have a blast and not want to leave when it was time to go, which resulted in more than a few unpleasant exit scenes.  When he entered adolescence this trait became full blown and while he was always open to new adventures and experiences, he also maintained that not only was the glass half empty, the contents were poisonous.  I've always tried to persuade him otherwise and when I discovered the Law of Attraction theories, I tried to share them with him a couple of years ago.  True to form, he dismissed this "nonsense" immediately. I never brought it up again.  Imagine my surprise this year when, as a birthday gift, I sent him an Amazon.com gift card that he used to purchase The Secret books and movie.  I was so delighted I squealed!  I trust my son's critical thinking skills enough that the flaws in this series don't matter, he will be able to parse them out.  In a very random series of events that I hope had everything to do with my positive vibrations toward my son and my wish that he would discover these things on his own, he did just that.  Although Ryan now accepts the theories and believe strongly in their effectiveness, he still wonders how douchebags end up with all the goodies when the theory promotes that you get what you give.  Chaos at work.

My romantic partner, Mike, is an attraction magnet.  People just hand him things he has expressed a desire for so many times that I've lost count.  He's a natural with it and yet his life still has big areas he wishes he could manifest much better results. His recent manifestations include a new smartphone, a high-tech gaming laptop and a 50-inch flat screen TV.  I have no doubt that a big part of his success in this area is his natural optimism, a quality that attracted me to him for sure.  The magical part about his optimistic nature is not that he is able to attract these things but that in spite of his negative childhood experiences of poverty, abuse and neglect, he has been able to remain so incredibly positive and proactive in his life.  Both he and I have managed to take soul-crushing experiences and put them to use in positive ways in our lives.  While we cannot explain how or why these experiences found us, what we choose, how we consciously respond, on a daily basis has made all the difference. 

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yep, you nailed it.

Katherine Koba said...

It's nice to see the original proponents of the "Law of Attraction" are retweaking it, but it still makes me really and deeply uncomfortable, and it always will.

"Oh, your mother died of cancer? Well, she must not have wanted to get better *hard* enough."


It also opens the door for making victim-blaming paradigms more legitimate than they should be. Plus, I think there's way more confirmation bias at work there than anyone is going to admit to (or even be aware of).

Satu said...

Very well put, Ginny. I too have my problems with the LoA. It's all just too simple and I think life doesn't work that way. The chaos factor is a seriously good point.

I also see the danger of victim blaming. If you got abused as a child it's all your own fault because you chose that life??! Scuse me...but WTF?! That just makes me mad. I am a strong believer in shit happening and it not happening for any reason whatsoever. Of course you can influence how your life goes by how you deal with things. But I think some things happening to us are just random.

I still believe that positive thinking has a lot of power and a lot probably depends on your perception of things. I have a friend who is a total pessimist, too. No matter what happens in her life, the sentence most frequently uttered by her is "My life is hell!". For a long time I thought she was actually particularly unlucky and bad things happened to her a lot more frequently than to other people. But after six or so years I have come to the conclusion that the same amount of shit happens in other people's lives, they just don't make as much of a fuss about it and don't take it to mean the Universe is against them. ;)

Anyway, thanks for this. It's something I've been thinking about a lot because this LoA stuff often made me so angry (because I think it is too simplistic). You put a finger on it and it's not the LoA as such but the chaos or randomness factor it leaves out.

Pietra di Chiaro Luna said...

I do believe in the blessings of life and sometimes, I can see then as, in tarot reading, for example, we get many cards confirming these blessings: they are not only in your head! Yey! 3 of cups!
And though I don't buy this LoA thing, tend to think that as much as we are satisfied to what and who we see in the mirror, life goes on a fair path - ah. libra!
Also there is an important thing that you mentioned: no, we are not the only gear in the engine. Sometimes, people just change and we... Adapt.

Ginny said...

Katherine, I have always had trouble with theories place all the responsibility for either good or bad on one person's shoulders. The "self-made man" is not an island. He or she had lots of help along the way. Although we all love to hear the rags to riches stories, and they do exist, more often one is propped up or held back depending on the environment one is born into. If one is born into a relatively privileged lifestyle, one's chances of material success are exponentially greater, even if you're a negative douchebag. LoA doesn't factor this in, and I understand why it doesn't. We CAN rise above our circumstances and should be encouraged to, but many sensitive souls will turn their focus inward, trying to search out some possible cause in their subconscious for the problems they experience, and feel like failures when they don't produce the results they think they should. There are many LoA advocates and teachers that promote MANY very good ideas, so I am not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But I also cannot disregard chaos when our lives are so interconnected that other entities have such a profound affect on what happens in our lives.

Satu, you make an excellent point, too, with the example of your friend. Such was the case with my son as well. His life wasn't any worse than others. In fact, in many ways it was better and I would point this out to him (to no avail). His focus needed shifting, but no one could do it for him. He and I both agree that, at minimum, LoA can improve one's life simply by helping one feel better without anything around you changing.

Pietra, isn't it also true that, in tarot reading, we focus more on the "negative" cards? The Sun shows up in a reading and we're like, "That's nice," and move on. But when the Tower appears we're all, OMG! Oh NO! And fret and worry and try to figure out what it is pointing to. You also mentioned something really core to life and that's balance. Dualities make up the cloth of life, as I mentioned in another recent post. We can't have light without dark, yin without yang, so it seems unreasonable for us to essentially eliminate or ignore entire threads from that cloth (as if we could). I think LoA has good things to say about dealing with life, but I wish it didn't go so far as saying one is entirely responsible for that heart attack, that accident, that abuse. There's where most of us draw the line.

Some who believe in reincarnation also propose that our conscious souls choose certain life paths in order to learn or experience particular lessons. Though I had an experience with my son when he was three years-old that caused me to believe that we may have a hand in choosing our parents, I have a hard time believing this is 100% true all of the time given the horrible things we know can happen to some children at their parents hands. So it's not just LoA that dumps this weight on people, but many systems of belief. Now, here's my Libra showing -- On the one hand, it's good to help people see that they are responsible for much of the misery they have in their lives so they can proactively work to change it. But they will never persuade me that my friend's baby that died of a hereditary disorder CHOSE to do so, or that her parents somehow brought that on their daughter by their negative thinking. It's cruel to even suggest it. Much better to focus on how to more positively respond to such tragedies than blame one for bringing them on.

Which opens a whole other can of worms, but I will stop here.

Katrina Wynne said...

Dear Ginny,

As is often the case, I resonate with what you have shared in your research and writing. You have brilliantly explored the relationship between order and chaos, and accurately described the order behind what appears to be chaos, while connecting these issues back to what we love, Tarot and life.

One of the questions in the background is the notion of “control.” Who controls what? Is there control, or are there multiple points of contact beyond control? My Taoist influenced perspective on life reminds me that control is an illusion, while flow is an art. Thus, my approach to Tarot is to align with flow, not to look for the source of control or to seize an effort to manipulate life circumstances.

Just yesterday I was responding to a series of research questions on the topic of “Tarot and Health” from a fellow Tarot scholar in which the subject of Tarot was breached as a tool for trying to gain control in our lives. I shared these thoughts of mine. “In those cases where a change in circumstances is not an option, a change of attitude can be greatly supported by Tarot wisdom. “ and “To relinquish control over and learn to navigate more authentically with the currents of life is my goal when working with all clients.”

A second notion I find most challenging is the idea that Tarot cards, or life experiences, are inherently “good” or “bad.” To this I return to my Taoist leanings and express that these are polarized concepts and unique to one’s point of view. What is good for one can be bad for another. What is more interesting to me is why this thing seems so good to you? What need does it fulfill? This is much closer to your opening image….What? Why? How?...yet more personal.

Again, I appreciate the deep thought and consideration you have given this important topic and look forward to more posts from you.

In Spirit,
Katrina

Ginny said...

I always love when you join the discussion, Katrina. :) The control issue is definitely huge. The LoA mindset seems to promote a purely internal locus of control and I just can't go there any more than I could accept a purely external locus. I know and accept there are forces and happenings outside my control, therefore this: “In those cases where a change in circumstances is not an option, a change of attitude can be greatly supported by Tarot wisdom" is so spot on.

Tarot cards, like life experiences, aren't inherently good or bad, but we deem them so based on our emotional response to them. If we can observe our own responses and shift them as we are able, the card (and the experience) changes its "good" or "bad" status. Voila! ;) It's the same in any life situation, though some can truly be tougher than others to make that shift with. And the shift doesn't have to be a "mood change" at all, but a perspective change. Grief, for example, though painful like no other emotion, is a journey of its own and full of richness. One does not, nor should not, paste a smiley sticker on everything. Authentic realization that treasure is to be found in the depths is more than enough.

solobo said...

There again Ginny you come up with a point- After reading The Secret This question ( about the Bad things still happen)popped in the corner of my mind- I just overlooked that- I kept saying oh !LoA was too good for that- But one has to admit bad events do happen come what may-it hits you out of the blue from nowhere- Just like any feeling or emotion sometimes comes in from nowhere for no reason and it comes - it just comes and that's it-
A cousins child was diagnosed with blood cancer at the tender age of one.Definetely an event which no one had any control over-As always in such a situation The people and relatives turned judgemental- the mother was arrogant and it is a punishment...... and all that stuff - as it always happens accusations go on and on-people are so insensitive at times- When I thought about this- with LoA or no LoA why shud this happen to a child? Let us the past life theory in hinduism-As it is my reiki guru had told me that cancer is a karma related disease.Could it be that it was some karma in the past life carried over to the new life? The justice card speaks about karma- or rather can one attribite it just to past life karma or just the kind of pesticide filled, and biomedical kind of food we have at this age?Even if the new age food is the culpirit then all who eat it should have it.
I think we must accept that there are many things in the universe which we do not comprehend-

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