I remember the terrible conversation like it was yesterday.
One of best friends had ended his life, and I was chasing after the Why. Another best friend asked me to stop… and realize that any order I was searching for was just a prophylactic in a world that was in inherently chaotic anyways.
Order doesn’t actually exist on this planet.
As human beings, we are naturally drawn towards order and structure in our lives. We seek routine, stability, and predictability to provide a sense of comfort and control. However, the world around us is often chaotic and unpredictable, which can leave us feeling overwhelmed and helpless. This dichotomy between our desire for order and the chaos of the world is a fundamental challenge that we all must face. But how can we reconcile this contradiction and find peace amidst the chaos?
Calendars give us a sense of order. Religion offers order.
Flight arrivals are supposed to be order-ly. And they are each disrupted by chaos.
So I’m a fan of Stoicism, which offers a compelling framework for approaching this challenge. Stoicism emphasizes the importance of developing an inner sense of calm and resilience, even in the face of external chaos. According to the Stoics, the key to achieving this state of mind lies in accepting the world as it is, rather than trying to control or change it. This may seem counterintuitive at first, but let’s dive deeper into what this means.
At its core, Stoicism teaches us that the only thing we can truly control is our own thoughts and actions. Everything else is outside of our control and subject to the whims of the universe. Rather than fighting against this reality, the Stoics advocate for embracing it fully. By accepting the chaotic nature of the world, we can free ourselves from the anxiety and stress that comes from trying to exert control over the uncontrollable.
As the great Philosopher Tyson (Mike) said, “Everyone has a plan… until they get hit in the face”.
Of course, this is easier said than done. How can we learn to accept a world that often seems so unfair and unpredictable? The answer lies in developing a mindset of detachment and equanimity. Rather than getting caught up in our own emotional reactions to external events, we can cultivate a sense of detachment that allows us to observe them with clarity and objectivity. By doing so, we can begin to see the world as it truly is, rather than through the lens of our own fears and desires.
One way to cultivate this sense of detachment is through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment with an open and non-judgmental attitude. By learning to observe our own thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them, we can develop a greater sense of mental clarity and calm. This, in turn, can help us to approach external events with greater equanimity and acceptance.
Another key aspect of Stoicism is the importance of living in accordance with nature. This means recognizing our place in the larger universe and living in harmony with its rhythms and patterns. When we try to force our own will upon the world, we inevitably create conflict and struggle. But by aligning ourselves with the natural order of things, we can find a sense of peace and purpose that transcends the chaos of the world around us.
Ultimately, the Stoic approach to coping with a chaotic world is one of acceptance, detachment, and alignment with nature. By developing these qualities within ourselves, we can find a sense of calm and resilience that allows us to navigate even the most challenging of circumstances. Of course, this is not an easy path to follow, and it requires a great deal of discipline and practice. But for those who are willing to commit to it, Stoicism offers a powerful framework for living a life of purpose, meaning, and inner peace in a world that is often anything but orderly.