Something I’ve wondered a lot about lately is how to conduct ourselves in times of chaos.
Certainly, we are in such a time, as the thin fabric of our culture is gradually torn apart, the delicate structure of society is crumbles before us, and civilization becomes less and less stable.
There is more social unrest and political extremism than ever—more poverty, needless war efforts, environmental concerns—and on top of it all, we have a president with a rather “complicated relationship” with the truth (to put it lightly).
I’m not one of those “the end is near” type of guys. In fact, I’m incredibly hopeful about the future—much more so than most of my peers. It is important to recognize the state of our world before we can have any real hope of changing it for the better; right now, we are in a state of chaotic flux.
The thing about chaos is that it’s entirely unpredictable. It cannot be anticipated in any way. It has no fixed path, no foreseeable future. We don’t know what is going to happen, and anyone who tells you that they have some “hidden knowledge” of how it’s going to turn out is most likely trying to sell you something.
I’m comfortable with not knowing. I think that’s important.
Before we can proceed with even the slightest notions of justice, goodness, or virtue, we must understand the nature of chaos on an existential level. We must surrender to the stark absurdity of it all, acknowledging the fact that we could not possibly comprehend all of the factors at play in our culture. We have little to no way of determining its future.
What does this mean, exactly?
It means we can’t cling to ideologies to attain a false sense of certainty. I feel this is the greatest danger brought forth by times of chaos. For, in this state, we tend to gravitate towards simplistic solutions.
There’s only a handful of appropriate responses to the chaos we are faced with. We could become complete and total narcissists, nihilistically defending our self-indulgent lifestyles, or we could adhere to an ideology by enveloping ourselves in a fixed set of beliefs. With the latter, we elicit a contrived and deeply distorted sense of order amidst the chaos. And last but not least, we could turn ourselves into badass spiritual warriors of truth through self-inquiry, artistry, and personal cultivation to trek through the chaos with sheer agility and finesse.
I choose the third option. The other two are dumb.
It is only through going within, delving into the depths of our own psyche, that we put ourselves in a position to actually help people. If I am not a cultivated person, then I have little to offer the world in terms of its potential improvement. All I could do is further attribute to the chaos, and that is not what we need.
We need truth—and truth can only be embodied through acknowledging the deeper elements of who and what we are, and then acting in accordance with this fundamental intuition.
Truth is the answer to chaos; and surely, it is the only thing that might allow us to induce a sustainable, societal order that benefits as many people as possible. The truth must be spoken, abided in, and actualized. We can only do this through understanding the deep, inner workings of our own consciousness, honestly examining our own nature.
In the words of Carl Jung, “Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
What we find in the world today is the outward manifestation of our collective unconscious—all of the turmoil and disorder that has been resting just under the surface is finally coming to boil over. Nothing happens in a vacuum. All that is happening now was destined to occur, for it is only from the ashes of chaos that we might rise like the phoenix into an enlightened society.
Not to sound cheesy, but if we want to change the world, we must change ourselves. Everything we want to see outwardly—peace, love, joy, kindness—must first come into being inwardly, within our own minds and hearts.
This is the only way these values can manifest in the world.
This is the only hope to be found amidst the chaos.
“You need something special all right,
You need something special to give you hope,
But hope’s just a word,
That maybe you said or maybe you heard,
On some windy corner ’round a wide-angled curve,
But that’s what you need man, and you need it bad.” ~ Bob Dylan
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Kayla Velasquez/Unsplash
Editor: Danielle Beutell