07 November 2012


by Andy Weddington
Wednesday, 07 November 2012

"Chaos was the law of nature; order was the dream of man." Henry B. Adams

How the smallest of variables - considering science and art - can make for disproportionate outcomes has always made good sense to me, from youth. 

Well into adulthood I learned of Chaos Theory - the ideas of nonlinearity - a field of study that encompasses that opening sentence. The more I read the less I understand yet feel good about the learning and incorporating the lessons into another field of study, General Semantics, preoccupied with since college.  

General Semantics, a topic addressed in previous commentaries, is not the study of language. Rather, General Semantics is the study of how language influences human behavior. Though germane to today's comment, I will leave it at that - to again address another day.

Chaos Theory is a fascinating blend of science and art - still in its infancy unlocking the mysteries, simplicities and complexities, of our world and life. For one, the field gave birth to nonlinear algorithms - that have quietly made modern, civilized life more organized, more efficient, more enjoyable. And there's not a scientific discipline nor art - from A to Z - that has not been impacted, and will continue to be so.     

The critical variable in Chaos Theory?


And time does not move backward. At least not yet.

Chaos Theory plots data - data points - over time. The pioneers of Chaos Theory discovered that data points that appeared messy and random and defiant to logic, when introduced to powerful computing capable of plotting in a three-dimensional world, were anything but messy and random and illogical. Over time, millions of iterations of data points emerged in what became known as "strange attractors" - unpredictable and beautiful and captivating designs; in space.

That is, hidden order emerged from overt chaos. For elemental illustration, think of a kaleidoscope.

For humans it's easy to become engulfed in and overwhelmed by data points. Such is the limitations of our brains - in regard to science e.g., biology, chemistry, physiology and art e.g., that which bubbles from thought. And such is necessary to tackle the challenges of everyday life - to survive. But, as noted, computers have shown us there is more. Much more.

What's my point?

We are data points.

Today is a data point.

Tomorrow is a data point.

Yesterday is a data point.

The re-election of President Obama is a data point - within a data point (and within a data point and so on). It is a data point - thrilling to some while bewildering to others and neither interpretation right nor wrong. Out of context, at least through the lens of Chaos Theory, data points do not make sense. Ergo the election of Barack Obama as president four years ago, a data point, did not make sense. And the re-election of Barack Obama as president yesterday, a data point, makes less sense.

As to this morning's reality, it's all so messy - whether voting for Mr. Obama or not. 

Yet in the grand design, the complexity, we know somewhere amongst the data points, in space, there is spectacular beauty - we simply cannot see it. And of this earth never will.

For today, some may have been expecting a more focused commentary on yesterday's election. Something offering pointed analysis and civil criticism - tenets of this forum. Many who make their living analyzing the 'here, now, and immediate future' started opining and publishing comment last night. But that's not my way.

There's plenty to address and volumes to be written about the realities of life in America and what lies ahead. But first it was necessary to set the stage - with reminder as to how the world and life seems to me; the bigger picture.

Nearly 30 years ago a Marine general penned seven words to me on a white mat surrounding his official portrait. That inscription: "For 1stLt Andy Weddington - Keep the faith!" and he signed it. As I write, it's nearby. I never had opportunity to tell that Marine just how much and well those wise words served me in life. And still do. Innocently neglecting to deliver a simple gesture of thanks haunts. Thankfully, I've had opportunity to tell his son, a friend, who, like Dad, is a Marine - so he understands, completely.

So in perspective, in one life - mine, at the time it, the inscribed portrait, was a random data point that defied explanation. Today, amongst innumerable data points plotted over those nearly 30 years, its meaningfulness as a bit element of a strange attractor is critical and gratifying. And, humbly, that strange attractor is minuscule in the grander plot.

Attempting to understand the micro without serious deference to the macro is silly. Certainly I will comment on the election. But not today for there's enough micro chaos flooding and polluting the airways. Macro perspective and calm now for order, and good health. Head up, shoulders back, and carry our star-spangled banner proudly. Forever may she wave.

Time. Data points ever being plotted. The strange attractor takes shape. Beauty a certainty. Patience.

Keep the faith!


Post Script

To all who disagreed, and some who surely seethed, with my past commentary and predictions as to the election outcome - Congratulations!

And I appreciate the lack of electronic eggs, pies, and crows - nary a one awaiting this morning, to my pleasant surprise. That, too, says something laudable about Americans.

Author's Endnote 

Marines - in mind, body, and spirit - attack! Shoot, move, communicate. Ready, aim, fire. Marines do not quit. Victory, though sometimes stymied, inevitable. Ask a Marine! 

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