Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Embrace Chaos to Kiss Order

Written by: on April 11, 2013

Margaret J. Wheatley, in her book Leadership and the New Science: Learning about Organization from an Orderly Universe, challenges us to step into a place of “allowing – trusting that the appropriate forms can emerge.”  This allowing is a place where one does not try to control the universe but instead surrenders to participate in its “unfolding dance of order.” (23)  She lists numerous concepts from physics to computer science in which we find a chaotic order.  For example, she explains that the Julia set fractals, which result from a simple non-linear mathematical computer formula, develop into a repeating pattern of randomness.  Even in the seeming randomness of a floret of broccoli are repeating fractals.  In other words, there is order in the chaos.  “Chaos is order without predictability.” (Cartwright quote, 123)

It seems that chaos contains patterns that are only visible with time.  When a system becomes unstable it moves into a period of oscillation then into an unpredictable stage of full chaos.  However, eventually something called a “strange attractor” becomes evident; named strange because we don’t know that much about them.  A strange attractor is a space that magnetically pulls the system into visible shape.  A strange attractor is ultimately a dynamic kind of equilibrium.  Something attracts the system, the system begins to repeat itself using the concept of “self-similarity,” and ultimately out of the chaos comes a pattern of order.  For example, a snowflake is unique and apparently random, however the crystals within the snowflake practice “self-similarity.”  You can see the same example in my picture of the delicious Romanesco broccoli.  As a whole it is a unique shape but within its seeming randomness are patterns of order.  And within these patterns of order are chaotic uniqueness.  And within this chaotic uniqueness are more patterns of order.  These patterns of order give shape to the chaotic random floret of Romanesco broccoli.  Get it? Got it? Good!  🙂

The inherent order in chaos inspired in me thoughts about free will.  Humans are free to make random choices.  As we make these choices we are also magnetically drawn to “strange attractors.”  These strange attractors eventually help us create order in the story of our lives.  Each story is different and yet there are patterns of similarity.  Every human that lives long enough moves through childhood, youth, and adulthood.  We all tend to experience similar emotions in different ways – sadness, sorrow, happiness, joy.  The self-similarity patterns we create help us develop a personal identity. 

What are the “strange attractors” in your life that have helped form order out of chaos?

What self-similarity patterns have you created in order to form your identity?

How might you embrace chaos in order to kiss order?

Wheatley, Margaret J. Leadership and the New Science: Learning about Organization from an Orderly Universe.  Berrett-Koehler Publishers. San Francisco, CA. 1992.


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