Chaos Theory offers striking parallels to the spiritual life. Chaos is the last state a system goes through before it dissolves into completely random behavior that represents the demise of the system. In a mathematically chaotic system, there is underlying order. You can observe the order inherent in a chaotic system - but only when you step back and view its wild permutations over time and from a multi-dimensional view. From chaos can emerge a reformed system that is stable and stronger than what was previously. Fractals, the beautiful hologram-like patterns created by graphing the mathematical iterations of a chaotic system, illustrate the order that becomes apparent only after time. The picture on the left is an example of a fractal and can be downloaded as a screensaver from Tech Republic.
There is a life lesson in the behavior of chaotic systems. There are phases in life in which chaos seems to reign supreme, typically caused by illness, crisis, financial devastation, death of a loved one, a dark night of the soul or depression. Comfort comes from realizing that our lives are passing through a chaotic state in which order, hidden from plain sight, beckons from the viewpoint of a wide-angle lens. You use that lens when you step back from the present hardship and contemplate it in the context of the bigger picture or the fractal pattern of your life. Frustratingly, the wide-angle lens takes maturity and sometimes the lapse of time before you can see through it clearly. Indeed, sometimes that viewpoint is never accessible via human understanding.
Forgiveness demands that you use a wide-angle lens. This is why it can takes years - even decades - for an individual to to forgive and become free of his or her past. It may take that long to be able to discern the order underlying chaos, to view the hurt and the pain you experienced through a wide-lens, to see it in the context of a bigger picture. Be patient. Just because you are interested in forgiving means that you are already taking steps toward that goal.
Your life is a fractal image of order within chaos. It oscillates between phases of seeming chaos and order - yet inherent in the chaos is order, and within order is the possibility of chaos. The trick is to hold onto faith in both chaos and order. For me, the order is Source’s promise to me that there is an underlying purpose, beauty and promise. There is safety. As the Psalms say:
“Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest thy hand upon me.
Whither shall I go from they Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from they presence?
If i ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and they right hand shall hold me.”
-Psalm 139:5, 7-10
For more information on chaos theory and how it relates to business and life, please refer to Margaret Wheatley’s book, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World.