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. 
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