Chaos and Higher Order
When you know yourself only through content, you will also think you know what is good or bad for you. You differentiate between events that are “good for me” and those that are “bad.” This is a fragmented perception of the wholeness of life in which everything is interconnected, in which every event has its necessary place and function within the totality. The totality, however, is more than the surface appearance of things, more than the sum total of its parts, more than whatever your life or the world contains.
Behind the sometimes seemingly random or even chaotic succession of events in our lives as well as in the world lies concealed the unfolding of a higher order and purpose. This is beautifully expressed in the Zen saying “The snow falls, each flake in its appropriate place.” We can never understand this higher order through thinking about it because whatever we think about is content; whereas, the higher order emanates from the formless realm of consciousness, from universal intelligence. But we can glimpse it, and more than that, align ourselves with it, which means be conscious participants in the unfolding of that higher purpose.
When we go into a forest that has not been interfered with by man, our thinking mind will see only disorder and chaos all around us. It won’t even be able to differentiate between life (good) and death (bad) anymore since everywhere new life grows out of rotting and decaying matter. Only if we are still enough inside and the noise of thinking subsides can we become aware that there is a hidden harmony here, a sacredness, a higher order in which everything has its perfect place and could not be other than what it is and the way it is.
The mind is more comfortable in a landscaped park because it has been planned through thought; it has not grown organically. There is an order here that the mind can understand. In the forest, there is an incomprehensible order that to the mind looks like chaos. It is beyond the mental categories of good and bad. You cannot understand it through thought, but you can sense it when you let go of thought, become still and alert, and don’t try to understand or explain. Only then can you be aware of the sacredness of the forest. As soon as you sense that hidden harmony, that sacredness, you realize you are not separate from it, and when you realize than, you become a conscious participant in it. In this way, nature can help you become realigned with the wholeness of life.
Good and Bad
At some point in their lives, most people become aware that there is not only birth, growth, success, good health, pleasure, and winning, but also loss, failure, sickness, old age, decay, pain and death. Conventionally these are labeled “good” and “bad”, order and disorder. The “meaning” of people’s lives is usually associated with what they term the “good,” but the good is continually threatened by collapse, breakdown, disorder; threatened by meaninglessness and the “bad”, when explanations fail and life ceases to make sense. Sooner or later, disorder will irrupt into everyone’s life no matter how man insurance policies he or she has. It may come in the form of loss or accident, sickness, disability, old age, death. However, the irruption of disorder into a person’s life, and the resultant collapse of a mentally defined meaning, can become the opening into a higher order.
“The wisdom of this world is folly with God,” says the Bible. What is the wisdom of this world? The movement of thought, and meaning that is defined exclusively by thought.
Thinking isolates a situation or event and calls it good or bad, as if it has a separate existence. Through excessive reliance on thinking, reality becomes fragmented. This fragmentation is an illusion, but it seems very real while you are trapped in it. And yet the universe is an indivisible whole in which all things are interconnected, in which nothing exists in isolation.
The deeper interconnectedness of all things and events implies that the mental labels of “good” and “bad” are ultimately illusory. They always imply a limited perspective and so are true only relatively and temporarily. This is illustrated in the story of a wise man who won an expensive car in a lottery. His family and friends were very happy for him and came to celebrate. “Isn’t it great!” they said. “You are so lucky.” The man smiled and said, “Maybe.” For a few weeks he enjoyed driving the car. Then one day a drunken driver crashed into his new car at an intersection and he ended up in the hospital, with multiple injuries. His family and friends came to see him and said, “That was really unfortunate.” Again the man smiled and said, “Maybe.” While he was still in the hospital, one night there was a landslide and his house fell into the sea. Again his friends came the next day and said, “Weren’t you lucky to have been here in hospital.” Again he said, “Maybe.”
The wise man’s “maybe” signifies a refusal to judge anything that happens. Instead of judging what is, he accepts it and so enters into conscious alignment with the higher order. He knows that often it is impossible for the mind to understand what place or purpose a seemingly random event has in the tapestry of the whole. But there are no random events, nor are there events or things that exist by and for themselves, in isolation. The atoms that make up your body were once forged inside stars, and the causes of even the smallest event are virtually infinite and connected with the whole in incomprehensible ways. If you wanted to trace back the cause of any event, you would have to go back all the way to the beginning of creation. The cosmos is not chaotic. The very word cosmos means order. But this is not an order the human mind can ever comprehend, although it can sometimes glimpse it.
Excerpt from A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle 2005