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Chaos doesn't have to be a bad thing

The ancient Greek take on chaos – A case for re-evaluation

In the mindful tradition, we typically try to stave off chaos by being in the moment. But what if I told you that chaos might just be getting a bad rap? Could we just be misunderstanding it? Could it be that our constant striving for order is one of the misconceptions about mindfulness?

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Once there was nothing but chaos

Chaos (χάος) in the ancient Greek tradition means the ultimate nothing, from which something is continuously springing forth. You can look at it as a primitive understanding of particles, or even matter (smart guys, those Greeks). In the beginning, there was nothing but chaos. Millions and millions of little bits of clutter. These bits were continuously flying around in disorder, and every once in a while they would therefore find themselves in a combination that would make… ‘something’. Things that we as humans would recognize as a thing. Starting with the earth, the heavens, and the underworld. And from there, other things. Air, or wheat, or a cow, or even a god. Anything that wasn’t specifically made by the gods for a specific purpose was seen to be brought into existence by a random organisation of the disarray. In Greek mythology, every so often things just appear. Out of thin air, or rather, from the chaos.

Chaos doesn’t have to be bad

So what do we take from this mythological approach to chaos? I think it’s twofold. First of all, disorder is not necessarily bad. It’s neutral. Secondly, it is not necessarily stressful. It’s just disorganized. And that’s nothing to worry about; sometimes it’s fine to just let it be disorganized. At some point, it will organize itself again, and form… ‘something’. Something you could not have come up with anyway. So why not just look at it in wonder?

Final thoughts

It is in looking at the chaos afresh that we can see new things taking shape. When life seems chaotic, therefore, this is when mindfulness can be most effective – and the most fun.

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