Saturday, October 08, 2005

Many people have some idea of chaos theory. Lots of movies and TV shows have mentioned it and various characters have expounded on it's implications, but I think that most people have a very slim idea of what it means. I will not try to explain it because it has many meanings and many implications. The one thing I want to try to make clear is that chaos is not anarchy, nor does it mean randomness. It has a mathematical basis just like pi and other very, very long numbers. In fact, let's discuss pi.


It just keeps going, and going, and going. But, even though the numbers are the same size on the printed page or monitor display imagine that the big numbers, those close to, say, a million are brighter red in color and bigger in pixel size. Now pi looks different, doesn't it? Say that the number 3 at the begining is a foot tall, a third of a meter more or less. Now imagine that the 1 just to the right of the decimal is 1/10th the size of the 3. Ah! Now, of course, let the 4 after the 1 be 1/10th the size of the 1 and so forth. Now the number gives you an idea of what it is. It is a 3 mostly with a very slightly fuzzy edge. It's a bit more than another 3, but nowhere near a 4. You see it as if you had a bit of a film on your cornea making it different. That fuzz never gets clear, no matter how you shake your head or rub your eyelid it stays fuzzy. You can't tell where it begins and the rest of the numbers leave off and that is more or less what chaos does.

Just as a dollar represents a fraction of work so numbers represent a fraction of quantity and quantity is fuzzy. The edge of our solar system is fuzzy. We recently located a bit of stone and ice way out past Pluto spinning around the sun nevertheless and we named it. There are lots of things spinning around our sun and we may never name them all because our solar system is fuzzy. It has no real beginning nor end. Work has no beginning or end. I crawled around the rooftop trying to restore a tarp to prevent the celing from caving in and the ceiling then caved in. We put the tarp back up and added boards and staples and today I woke up to look up and see the plastic/insulation ceiling was wet, as was the insulation that the hired worker had added in the walls to replace the wet, spoiled insulation from our last leak. Next week we plan to remove the roof that leaks and replace it with a dormer that doesn't. But someday it too will leak and someday it too will have oxidized under the solar wind into a grey colored dust which will be pulled along the tectonic plate until it is ground under another plate and turned into magma. It never stops, but the edges are fuzzy. Thus we can say work, like all things is a fuzzy, chaotic thing.

All things are of the universe and the universe is fuzzy and chaotic. But it has an equation, just like pi equals the circumference divided by the diameter of a circle. But if we observe a circle from the side and it is a variable line segment and if we observe the variable line segment from a slightly different universal stance we see a point. A point that fluctuates in color and density, like a star seen through the air surrounding this constantly moving, crawling, melting and burning ball of dirt and water and complex organic molecules. Pile up a few billion of those molecules in the right stack and you get me, observing the universe through a fuzzy eye. So the equation of the universe may be a chaotic equation, like the one for the value of pi or the one for the value of me. Might even be quite short, like e=mcsquared.

The opposite of chaos is order, in most people's minds and order implies stability, or unchangability (stay=unchange) Since, however, the mass we are regarding is of the universe, we must understand that it, too, is chaotic and therefor constantly changing. Solar winds blast it, positrons and quarks fly thru it, knocking off odd bits of electrons and so forth. All of the things being knocked off are energy, which is vibration and that never changes in that it is always changing. So Einstein's fancy little equation assumes there is a constant weight to be measured or a constant mass to be measured or something is constant. But of course it is not. By changing my perspective I can turn a circle into a point that throbs and vibrates. So long as I and the circle are not one and the same I can measure it with time as a factor, so I can say that at a certain point in time the energy contained in a bit of mass is sooooo big that a city filled with little girls and boys dreaming happy thoughts about peach orchards can be brought into a screaming mass of electrons, ultraviolet and infrared radiation, and small chaotic bits of complex organic molecules.

So the universe is unknowable because it never stops. This must mean that the All is ignorant of the universe, but perhaps has an equation which enables it to catch small pictures of it from time to time. The trick, of course, is that we may not always be in that picture. Harry Truman was a nice enough guy, a father and husband who attended church and unlike the man he wanted to murder had not directly been responsible for many deaths. When he ordered the evaporation of that 3 year old Japanese girl who dreamed of peach blossoms and dolls that looked like Shirley Temple with slanted eyes he had never held that little girl on his lap and heard her sing that little song about peaches. Had he done so he might not have been able to vaporize her and her family. That is chaos. With his filmy eyes and certain perspective he was able to look at that girl and see instead happy Marines walking onto the beaches with no bullets firing at them and little American girls hugging their daddy. Harry liked little girls to hug their daddy and smile and play with their Shirley Temple dolls, except not of course those dolls with slanted eyes. The term "little girl" was slightly fuzzy to his vison of things and so out on the edge of things little girls had their skin burnt off and their brain boiled in a fraction of time which we could not easily measure.

Now in this uncertain future we look at those fuzzy events and see the little girls and boys on both sides of the big pond, so much alike and so different in outcomes. We see that there is no order to things, no true equations. Good and evil are chaotic terms and war is a fuzzy event. Good people don't torture young men and women, evil people kill innocent bystanders. Wars have a begining and end. We know this because we took history class and in history we learn that all of life can be measured as the spaces between wars, kings and asassination plots. But life is movement through time and time is the relationship between moving objects and objects are fuzzy bits of regions of probability collapse so by measuring time we collapse the probability to a single equation that's easy to understand and memorize and write down as the answer to question 5 on the first page of our history test. But by the time all that is done the event has moved on and the easy answer is always the wrong answer for this current moment in time. So it is that we learn that Japanese had tried more than once to surrender and cease fighting, but we rejected their appeals and vaporized their children and then we agreed to the terms of their surrender. We did all this both because they were evil and also because we wanted to see if the bombs worked. Oddly enough there were those experts who helped create the bombs who thought there was a slight chance that the equation which described the results carried with it a slightly chaotic quality which could be understood to mean the earth's athmosphere would catch fire and we would all of us be vaporized. Harry took the risk, but so did we all, even though the vast majority of us did not know we did. You can see here that the universe is chaotic, not ironic, because it did not vaporize the air and only a few thousand children had their lungs burnt to a cinder so they could not call out for those mothers whose ashes went whirling into the air to fall as slightly dirty rain on the lawns of California. Trickster was not involved, War was.

You wonder what would have happened if when a President is about to order the deaths of many thousands of people he had to sit quietly as they walked by him and as each small face looked up at him(or her) he was required to say, "Burn her (or him)" and the child would be led off to return to their homes and wait for the sound of the B-52 flying over their village. This is exactly what the despots of our unenlightened history used to love to do. Those evil geniuses like the Khan or Caligula or some random Incan king. They would sit and smile as the chests were ripped open and the small beating heart was fed to the Central Power That Is. What if Harry had to confirm the airstrike by eating the raw heart of a representative Japanese girl? You'd have to have some real balls to do that! I bet Georgey Boy is glad he doesn't have to face any of the families he's ordered vaporized. No little girls on his lap, his babies are drunk and happy and all-powerful, as daughters of absolute monarchs frequently are. At least for a few more years.

The difference between chaos and order is that chaos is the underlying theme of the universe and order is a construct of a limited intellect. Chaos is not cruel, nor random. It sits as the one consistancy in an inconsistant inconsistancy. Order is always inaccurate because it trims off the fuzz at the edges, so it is always not quite what it says it is. If the fuzz that is trimmed off is important, then you have less than what you need to understand. Imagine trimming the fuzz off a peach and then handing it to a person and asking them what they held. They might say it was a nectarine or even an apple. This is because that fuzz helps us understand the peachness of the peach. Those things on the edge of the equation, those little uninvolved details which hold the whole thing up are important to understanding. We want to kill men who want to kill us but they are trying to kill us because our bombs are dropping on their little girls and we want to kill them because their bombs kill our little girls. Back in the day, we used to trade children in order to avoid war. It was understood that war killed little girls and if we had a litle girl on our lap, calling us Uncle Harry we would be less likely to pick up the phone and say "Burn them all."

If George had to look at the little children whose parents were unable to feed them and know that it was his order that stopped the food from coming, or stopped the meds that kept Grandpa alive, would he be less likely to sign that paper or make that phone call? Or, like Caligula would he lean forward and grin and say "Grandpa won't be home when I let you go because he was old and sick and I want to give that money to my rich friends. Your Grandpa was just in the way, an incidental fuzz on the peach of my strategy."? I rather think he would lean in. I've watched him on TV as he leans in to explain to those otherwise stupid and drooling reporters that war is peace and love is indifference and death is life. Like some evangelical minister explaining that the poor will always be with us and anybody who thinks otherwise is unclean and should be burned alive. Or drowned. Sometimes we save money by pretending to build dikes around cities and a house filled with old people gets drowned in the storm. Oh, and so do the old folks. Grandpa won't be there when we get home, Shirley. He drowned while tied to his bed where we left him.

Suppose a country was created where the Supreme Authority, the One who wages war was forced to open the casket of every dead soldier and kiss them on their forehead goodbye? Each fallen warrior was sent to the earth with the blessing of those who ordered their death. The Secretary of War and Peace was filmed on live TV kissing each body goodbye, and then was sent back to their office to write up new plans for the next war. How solemn would War be, how so much pain for all those involved. Instead we see the happy grining face of a man with an IQ of a roadkill squirrel, insulated from all visions of death and violence, all voices of dissent, all concepts of the fuzzy nature of war. Instead he hears how there are good and evil men and he is good and so he can order the vaporization of the evil ones. All the while not understanding that evil is as evil does. If the Christ had taken up the sword and killed the soldier come for him, he would have become a soldier and a bringer of death. We would have lost a voice for peace. If a man who did not know much of the world save the region around the city in which he was born can see the nature of war and the nature of man, then why is it so important to have as our leader a man who thinks vaporizing children makes him a good man? How could we be so unseeing?

It all depends on where you stand and where you look. If a point in time can be understood to be a circle of time from a different viewpoint, then it can be understood that we cannot always see the end of a number or the edges of a world or the point of a sword. We should walk carefully and quietly and whenever possible we should allow small children a good night's sleep.