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"Chaos is not merely a mindless jiggling,
it's a subtle form of order."

What does chaos theory have to do with creativity? Everything. A simple understanding of chaos will forever change your idea of what creativity is all about. In truth there is no chaos, just different levels of order, interlaced and folding in upon itself.

Creative Chaos
The essential concepts behind chaos theory are that:
  • Perspective is the key to perceiving order.
  • There is order in apparent randomness.
  • It only takes a very small change to render a system chaotic,
    or conversely bring order to chaos. This event has been
    dubbed the "strange attractor".
  • The strange attractor is self-reflective and redundant.
  • Nature is composed of mirroring echoes of non-linear even

The discernment between chaos and order is merely a point of view. "Maps are imaginative pictures which allow thought to bring into focus aspects of reality that might otherwise be lost in details. With a good map we can appreciate some features of a reality we could otherwise miss, and we can explore this reality in a way that would be actually impossible without the map." So say John Briggs and F. David Peat in their excellent book Turbulent Mirror.

If you are inside of something, say an atom, you only see electrons whirling chaotically around you. If you moved outside the atom you would see those electrons moving with a pattern around the atom. If you rise further above you see that atoms are actually the building blocks of larger structures called molecules. And so it goes, on up the scale, ad infinitum. The ever familiar 'forest from the trees' syndrome. It's all a matter of perspective. True creativity is allowing yourself to gain the loftiest perspective you can in relation to the object of your quandary or inquiry.


Order in Randomness

Creativity in its most meaningful sense renders order out of chaos. True creativity engenders new coherent form from existing patterns or ideas. The creative mind is not subdued by the apparent anarchy of random chaos.

Chaos theory has discovered that when a system begins to veer out of balance, it is pulled in the new direction by a 'strange attractor.' According to John Briggs, "An attractor is a region of phase space which exerts a "magnetic" appeal for a system, seemingly pulling the system towards it."

The strange attractor is the force that pulls any system in an entirely new direction. When you focus on a solution to a puzzle, your focus is what pulls all the relevant information together to find the solution. In effect, concentrated focus is the strange attractor we use to manipulate the world in a way that is creative and purposeful.


Minimal Change

For a system to move out of a state of coherency, or order, it only takes a very small, self-replicating event to pull it into apparent chaos. Mathematicians found that it was a very small fractional interjection, multiplied upon itself, that sends a system into a new nonlinear, seemingly chaotic direction. Chaos theory has also discovered that all things are interconnected. As the Taoist has always known, a butterfly in Asia exercising its wings can create a cyclone on the other side of the planet. Now we know why.



These fractional changes in direction result in fractals. "Randomness, is interleaved with order, simplicity enfolds complexity, complexity harbors simplicity and order and chaos can be repeated at smaller and smaller scales, a phenomenon known as fractal." Fractals were so named because they are the very small change in events that folding in upon themselves can create whole new systems. Fractals are nested self-replicating events. A Chinese box of nested boxes is analogous to a fractal.

Redundant Echoes

Creativity takes all that has come before, ventures a bit further into the unknown, brings back the unknown and marries it to what is known. Sounds a bit like evolution doesn't it? It is the self-referential nature of chaos that moves it towards eventual order. Sacred geometry has shown us that nature is ever resplendent with self-replicating forms. The golden mean and the fibonacci series are evidence of this ever-repeating pattern. The fibonacci series continues to add unto itself as it increases. 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13.... Each number adds to the number before it as the progression continues. This is how nature adds back unto itself as it unfolds its myriad of forms. The asymmetry that is created from this process results in the golden mean, or the ratio of 1 : 1.6.

In summary, natural order is maintained by a mirroring feedback loop. We learn, and then add this learning to everything else we know. A creative mind seeks to appreciate the order within all things, and to create new form or systems from that existence order. A creative mind understands that chaos is relative to a point of view.

Possibly the best news coming out of chaos theory is that everyone does has an effect on the whole. Every contribution you make in a creative vein does have an effect on all that exists. There are no small or meaningless creative acts.

Contemplation is the process by which creativity is generated. Thus, the true act of creativity is an act of self-reflection. Order is created from the mirroring of consciousness back onto itself. Venturing into the unknown, or venturing slightly off the beaten path, is the creative urge. Adding the new territory to the existing map is what allows the new effort and energy to take form.

Anyone interested in increasing their creative talents would be wise to read the Turbulent Mirror to gain a fuller understanding of this theory. Another book worth reading is Order Out Of Chaos by Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers. And, there is the book Chaos by James Gleick. Once you understand the profound implications that science is now revealing, your creative horizons will be infinitely broader. Once you understand how important you and what you do are in the whole scheme of things, you will fully appreciate the precious gift of creativity you hold.

© J.L. Read, 1997. All Rights Reserved.
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This site is dedicated in loving memory
to its creator, Janet L. Read
1949 — 2000


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