When in the middle a chaotic situation, I don’t automatically see the beauty in chaos. The word chaos comes from the Greek word khaos, meaning chasm or void. I picture a big black hole. Chaos can take the form of uncertainty, messiness or even a lack of understanding.
But if I look deeper into many acts of nature and examples of craftsmanship, I can see that beauty in chaos is possible and probable as we change the variables we can control. We can also learn from the laws of nature that are already in place. We can personally use the principles we find for inspiration to change grow. Here we will look at three areas of beauty in chaos: art, nature, and personally.
One: Art and Chaos
Michelangelo, born in Florence 1475, died in Rome in 1564, used the painting process known as fresco, the Italian word for fresh. It’s the art of painting hand-ground natural earth pigments into a freshly made, wet plaster surface. This process, when done well, can last thousands of years but looks chaotic and rough at its base. The entire ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo from 1508-1512 is crafted in the fresco style. The first layer is of arriccio, a rough scratched surface. Then marrone made of soil and crushed stone and finally intonaco, a delicate fine white layer which forms the actual painting surface.
Michelangelo often painted scenes picturing conflict and chaos. Biblical themes were a prime subject of chaos from creation to a flood to Jonah and the whale to judgment. Over six million visitors a year come to see the beauty in chaos that Michelangelo created through his painting.
For an expert potter, if you put an unformed grey lump of clay on a potter’s wheel, some hours and few hot firings will most likely produce a beautiful work of art. The outcome of that lump of clay for the unskilled would most likely be different. Misshaped bowls or cups with uneven surfaces and cracked sides may bring enjoyment to the hobby creator but bring little use or beauty. To create beauty in chaos out of a lump of clay takes added skill and experience.
Even music demonstrates great beauty in chaos with the principle of dissonance and resolution. Classical composers often used dissonance in their compositions to create a more satisfying sense of ending a phrase or cadence. Bach, Beethoven and some of the Romantic period contemporaries used more simple dissonance. With the rise of impressionism between 1867 and 1886, composers expanded their harmonic possibilities with more experimentation, creating beautiful compositions. Painters also started using heavier blobs of paint with brushstrokes and a pallet knife that looked chaotic at close range, but beautiful at a distance.
Two: Nature and Chaos
Pearls come in a wide range of colors. Many leading ladies were famous for wearing pearls, such as Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Coco Chanel. The beautiful pearls we see, mostly seen in pieces of jewelry, were crafted out of chaos. Similar to the aggravation we feel when getting a piece of grit in our eye, the friction an oyster feels when a wayward food particle becomes trapped starts the layers of aragonite and conchiolin (KON-kee-uh-lin) to build a shell-like substance. Between the layers is a very thin substance called nacre (NAY-ker) or mother of pearl. Mother of pearl is shiny, multi-colored and beautiful and we can see this inside an oyster shell. The end product of this chaos for that oyster is a pearl.
When we look at the result of a volcanic eruption, the black sand beaches that are uniquely beautiful in areas like Hawaii and Iceland as well as other places, is a wonderful example of beauty in chaos. Fiery lava, looking to destroy everything in its path, has now been worn down to create spectacular beachside resorts. Lava also provides options in landscaping. Lava rock is lightweight and because of air pockets, it allows for drainage. It also can be used to prevent soil erosion. Some even use lava stone for metaphysical benefits.
Surfers find great beauty in the chaos of huge waves as they seek to find greater pinnacles of difficulty and excitement in riding them ashore. A butterfly struggles to escape a cocoon through the process of metamorphosis. The fight for the butterfly to emerge is chaotic and difficult but it cannot live without struggling through that chaos.
Three: People and Chaos
Relationships often experience chaos in a number of ways. Disagreements, pressure and health issues create change and situations that are chaotic, messy and uncomfortable. Resolution may or may not come and many chaotic situations end with severed relationships, mental anguish and decreased quality of life.
However, chaos also can bring great growth if we let it. Chaos lets us know where we need to focus our attention and even rid ourselves of what is hindering us. This principle is especially relevant at mid-career and the halftime of life. This is a time of change and taking a step back to evaluate next steps. We may feel like we are on the potter’s wheel as a lump of clay, a bit misshapen and cracked. Or maybe we’re feeling like the butterfly, struggling to emerge anew, but not knowing where our wings will eventually carry us.
Simplifying our lives and focusing on the basic core essentials to begin removes some of the chaos as we regroup and plan for the next decades of our lives. This process brings a greater sense of calm with satisfaction and productivity.
Principles for Creating Beauty in Chaos
-Focus on what we can control. There are many things we can control such as diet, schedule and even finances. The results can bring better health and quality of life. Don’t spend time worrying about what we can’t control. It isn’t worth it.
-Create good lists. A good list can potentially remove stress from our lives. Let the list carry the pressure of the tasks for the day, the week and even the month. Whatever isn’t done is just carried over. The important principle is to not worry about what is on the list. It will be there when you get back to it.
-Define our core values. Core values are at the center of a strong and successful purpose and they are what propel us forward and out of an endless roundabout. (see article below)
Hopefully you have taken some of the examples here to heart. I encourage you to take a good look around you as you will be able to see more and more examples of beauty in chaos, especially in nature, art and even in yourself.
How Your Core Values can Affect Your Happiness
Simplifying our lives and focusing on the basic core essentials to begin removes some of the chaos as we regroup and plan for the next decades of our lives.
Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author
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