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The word chaos comes from the Greek word kháos, meaning chasm or void.
Chaos also has a protean quality when it’s used to describe the ancient creation myths, like Babylonia’s primeval sea, the chaos of Egypt’s recurring floods, the Iroquois’ water-covered world, and of course the Hebrew version: “The earth was without form and void; darkness was on the face of the deep.”
Our country is in a time of chaos.
Instead of truth, guidance, and inspiration from our government leaders, we receive lies, obfuscation, and blame casting.
The idea of a unified nation seems to be on no one’s mind; instead we are perfectly happy creating divisions and cliques, and defining ourselves by the conspiracy theories we believe in.
Social media, instead of being a place to socialize, is inundated with political memes and attention-grabbing posts that have little to do with verifiable facts.
Extreme opinions have become trendy—it’s a form of acting out, a kind of self-expression.
The uncertainty of our time has created anxiety, which has lead to all kinds of strange behavior—people react with fear to changes that are out of their control.
But creation myths also tell the story of renewal and rebirth after the chaos:
“Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” That was a positive development.
The Iroquoian Sky Woman fell from her island in the sky, but landed on the back of Big Turtle floating in the primordial waters that covered the world.
Osiris, the Egyptian god, was killed but then resurrected from the dead with magic spells and perfumes by his devoted queen.
The Babylonian’s battle with the watery chaos that was all around them was won by their hero Marduk.
All the stories of our ancestors proclaim not only rebirth, but renewal. Our chances of coming out of this current chaos are 100 percent—if myth is a reliable guide.
And how bad is the chaos going to be? It could be much worse than this; we could look back at this time as the halcyon years, when things return to normal.
It depends on how much fear and anxiety we choose to carry around with us.
As can be seen from Donald Trump’s spectacular rise to power, fear and anxiety are easily aroused and manipulated within the people. The same technologies that were supposed to make our lives easier, more productive, and more fun, have enabled massive brainwashing—that’s not a nice word but it’s appropriate; people don’t know the difference between opinion, preference, and what they actually know to be true. There are facts and there are alternative facts; there is news and there is fake news—I would call that some pretty rich chaos.
We should be able to make something out of that, like the Iroquois story of the primordial waters, and the toad who dove down to the bottom and brought back a mouthful of mud, and with that tiny bit of earth, created the world on the back of Big Turtle by Sky Woman and her friends.
Maybe that’s what we really need: story-time around the old campfire, sharing stories of who we are and why we do things. I know, we have television and movies, and they kind of do that on the evening news: tell us all the bad things that happened in an entertaining sort of way.
Maybe we could have some discourse among ourselves. Maybe when the fog lifts and we stumble out of the chaos into the light of the midday sun, we’ll be able to do it again—remind each other of who we are and how we do it.
The spoiler alert is: we are living as human beings, and we do it with a wide range of amazing behaviors, but our most celebrated—our most sublime—is when we live with kindness and compassion. That’s when we are the most content; that’s when we are at our most powerful and creative.
And that’s when a nation or an individual can become great again.