The order and chaos of relationships

Relational chaos, death, & progress

In our last essay, we explored how relational order is the foundation of any group. Now we'll explore the opposite side of the map: relational chaos.

The region of relational chaos.

It's doubly difficult to describe this upper corner past the edge of known patterns.

"The Edge... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over."
― Hunter S. Thompson in Hell's Angels

Further complicating this essay is that this region is emotional, not rational. To understand it, we have to feel it.

Before we explore relational chaos, it may help to step towards it: A path from relational order to chaos.

Five aspects of relational chaos

When we come across relational chaos, it initially sounds like "crazy talk." It's full of ideas so vague, divergent, and strange that only the most galaxy-brained can follow. Most of us don't see it, or we roll our eyes at it.

Relational chaos is a feeling.

The prophets and poets who dwell in relational chaos channel intuitive, futuristic ideas. They can't describe them cohesively using words or mathematics, but they can feel and express them in music, mystical visions, and parables. Art is an expression of the inexpressible.

The ideas aren't rational but ring true in the most fundamental human sense. No one can solve them; only express and experience them.

Relational chaos feels at a cosmic level.

Relational chaos is the future potential of how all humans relate to each other as a connected whole.

"It's my job to pull the future into now" - Kanye West
Relational chaos sees macro patterns in the past, present, and future from a distance.

The chaos perspective views relational patterns from a cosmic perspective and traces the true shape of patterns in and between cultural movements that few ever see.

But from such height, the details are fuzzy. The relational patterns of the past, present, and future collapse into a grand but incoherent vision.

Relational chaos is all over the place.

Critics of chaos love to bring up its contradictions. But that's not entirely fair because contradiction implies a defined order.

Relational chaos is wildly contradictory when viewed from the ground: in one moment, it may emote a beautiful, humanistic vision and, in another, blanket damnation of an entire generation.

Even Gandhi expressed harsh, racist sentiments about Africans amidst his more popular inspirational quotes.

Those who orbit relational chaos aren't planners but the pointer-out-‘ers.

Amidst their impractical rabbit trails, we find insightful critiques of our social systems and compelling visions of what we might be. The visions may be directionally correct or incorrect, but any diagnosis or prescription offered with them should be suspect.

We shouldn't expect those with a gift for sparking social revolution to have the most well-structured plan for accomplishing it.

Relational chaos operates in a different kind of time.

People acting within relational chaos are never on time because orderly, chronological ("chronos") time doesn't exist there.

Relational chaos operates in kairos time. It instinctively feels when a person, group, or humanity itself might be nudged in an unexpected direction leading to transformation.

Relational chaos isn't tolerated up close for long.

By definition, chaos is untethered from the norms and power structures most of us live in.

Chaos is untethered from known patterns and speaks from the unknown.

Musicians, artists, and gurus often have an affinity for relational chaos. They create music, poetry, and prophecies that express the unexpressible.

But when even the most popular among them share their unfiltered chaotic insights, they're rarely understood. Disciples and fans blindly nod along with the crazy talk while others mock it.

People who access this chaotic corner hold a special kind of charismatic, intoxicating insanity.

"I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity." ― Edgar Allan Poe

But living in a house with beautiful madness is too much for most people. People with high relational chaos affinity are the most likely to be medicated, ostracized, or institutionalized by their groups eventually.

"Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown." - Jesus in Luke 4:24

Application: How to listen to relational chaos.

Any social group that ostracizes relational chaos will slowly dry up or become a tyranny. We need chaotic revolutionary sparks to ignite the edges of our social fabric every once in a while to reach our future potential.

But the transient, messy, vagueness of relational chaos is hard to maintain in a well-ordered family, company, or culture.

To benefit from relational chaos, we have to learn how to listen to it.
We have to listen to chaos more like a poem than a plan.
We need to see it more like art.
We have to be moved by it - even venerate it - but avoid crowning it.

If we don't, we'll kill our prophets, starve our artists, and watch the creative life in our community fade and die.

Each month, I write a short essay about the Chaos Map:

Thank you. Stay tuned for an introduction email.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.