Order and chaos. A matter of thought
Scientists have been struggling to understand and explain the randomness that exists at the subatomic level. But when we zoom out and look at the physical universe through the opaque lens of matter, everything seems to fall into more predictable order. A piece of furniture, whether old and covered in dense matting of cobwebs or a brand new one, may appear stationary to our eyes, but to particle physicists, whether new or old, all objects are teeming with atoms in constant and random movement. The body may be compared to furniture and thoughts to randomly moving atoms within it. In order to interact with collective creation which is the outer world, we need the orderly package of atoms called the human body. In contrast to the orderliness of the body are the thoughts which thrive on random and often chaotic interactions.
Our subjective self is a witness to the powerful medium of thoughts and through the interaction of thoughts in the context of the body and the outer world, individual life comes into perspective. The subjective self, being the observer, does not change. Neither does the body demonstrate overt change from moment to moment. Sandwiched between the two is a moving belt that never ends. Thoughts are continually placed and taken off this “belt”. Though random interactions that take place while thoughts are on the “belt”, the complex imagery we call the mind comes into existence. Just as the same baggage carousel in an airport transports thousands of pieces of luggage of all shapes, colors, and sizes, the same inner screen hosts thoughts of various types such as good, bad and indifferent. Often images generated are random, chaotic and hard to make sense of. Complicating this, the “belt” that carries thoughts seems to speed up at times. A lot of our energy is expended on trying to regulate not just the speed of the flow of thoughts and images but also their contents. Too slow, we are bored and if too fast, it creates anxiety and unease.
Just as we clamor for order and predictability in our key sources of happiness such as the family, workplace, sources of entertainment etc, we also want our thoughts to be orderly and predictable. It would be nice if that were to be the case, like a predictable pension that is deposited into our bank account whether we need it or not. Just as what we do with our pension is up to us, we are free to interact with thoughts that are deposited on the screen of the mind. However, unlike a pension which has a predetermined value, thoughts are not predetermined. We cannot say if the next thought would be pleasing or not. There is no particular rhythm or tune to our thoughts and they can change from one moment to another. When an outer experience happens to enter a favorable thought current aligned towards a happy state then that experience enjoys a high status in the inner sanctum of memories. The opposite is also true. When any outer experience is disliked and it merges with a thought stream heading in a negative direction, it becomes a misery generating annuity we cannot wait to forget.
Due to the evanescent nature of thoughts, it is impossible to build a stable structure in the mind where we can retreat to. Imagine constructing a house with bricks that dissolve over time. No one would want to stay in such a building where the roof could collapse at any time. In the mind, we create and house a life we want to lead using thoughts as the foundation, bricks and mortar. It is perfectly all right to enjoy the support of thoughts as long as we are prepared to walk away from them at a moment’s notice without ever looking back. Rooted in an orderly and stable bodily frame, we are inclined to recreate a similarly sturdy frame in the inner world of thoughts. Sometimes it works and at other times it does not. When thoughts are orderly and conform to our dictates, we tend to be happy. When we cannot control them, there is friction and unhappiness in the mind. The ups and downs of life roughly correlate with this “hit or miss” happiness.
Using the body and the external world as the focal point of our happiness, we impose upon our thoughts and attempt to hold them in line, a highly unnatural state that is counter to their ever-flowing nature. Imagine if we were to lead our lives based on what is imposed upon us by others. The whole communism experiment was based on this and history has proven the failure of this model. When we try to control our thoughts we are in essence acting as communists, creating an artificial order in the hopes of matching a utopian ideal of happiness. A lesser used but the more effective approach is to forget body as the focal point and approach thoughts from another perspective such the subjective self. The subjective self witnesses rather than getting involved with thoughts. By simply watching them without disturbing their movement, the attention will then shift to the inherent beauty in the randomness and mystery of how thoughts come about and not on their contents.
Once we identify with a thought, it generates a spark that lights the path to the future. Since we identify with thousands of thoughts on a weekly basis, there are innumerable ways our thoughts can influence how the future develops and take shape. Keeping track of even a handful of those thoughts is a trying affair that consumes our inner peace. Whenever there is more than one thought, which is usually the case, comparisons crop up. The inner detective in us makes us follow the trail of various thought in the hopes of uncovering the ones that promise the greatest happiness. As the sun fades, millions of stars come into view. Similarly, as the light of identification with thoughts is switched off, the landscape of the mind may open up and the all the thoughts that have troubled us may be viewed without the danger of them disturbing our inner peace.
The basis of modern democracy is freedom and order. There is no place for chaos and upheaval. Democracy works when freedom is enjoyed while simultaneously respecting order. Without freedom, order is short lived and without order, freedom cannot be lasting. If thoughts are taken as individual subjects, an inner democratic setup may be entertained wherein the subjective self represents order and thoughts represent freedom. When water is given freedom to trickle down a mountain slope, it may eventually take the shape of a mighty river. However, if that river creates flooding downstream, “order” is restored through a dam that forces the river to stop its errant ways. Similarly, thoughts may be given freedom to travel in any direction that they please. Who knows, some of them may become the seeds for a great positive change in the world. But when they start to create internal chaos, a dam of non-identification must be erected so that they don’t spill into the world through our actions. When we look at the world from the deeper subjective self, we see the beautiful dance of the external order in the world of matter as well as the freedom in the random and chaotic world of thought. That dance goes on forever, but life affords us a short window of time to enjoy it. Why waste this opportunity?