In January I took a quilt class that focused on gaining a better understanding of color. This class was comprised of 3 Wednesday evenings and the instructions were fairly simple. We were asked to sew together strips of fabric from dark to light and from narrow to wide. Then we were asked to cut these units up some more and sew them together to build a striped quilt. Which colors we chose were left up to us to decide, the only request was to stick to solids or tonal prints that read as solids.
This was the first time I made a quilt where I wouldn’t know what it would look like until it was done. I did not like that feeling at all. Throughout the project it felt like each step was being done wrong, and I had to fight the urge to ask someone else if my quilt looked wrong. When I finally completed this quilt, I was physically worn out and felt a little dizzy. Somehow, this project helped me turn a spiritual corner.
On the last night of the class, another student kept asking the teacher for some more rules and I quipped, “Can you give me the rules to the Chaos Theory?”
The Chaos Theory stuck with me, and so I titled my quilt, “Learning to Love the Chaos Theory”. I realized that since I’ve made this quilt into a metaphor, I better have a clear understanding of that metaphor before I start slinging it around. Since I don’t have a doctorate in Mathematical Theory, I googled “Chaos Theory for Dummies”, and got me an education for free.
The Chaos Theory, in a quick summary, nature works in patterns caused by the sum of many tiny pulses. And if you make one tiny change to any of these pulses, a completely different behavior in a complex system will result. This introduces the Uncertainty Principle. That is, you cannot determine the initial situation of a complex system, nor can you predict how that complex system will end up. And we’re supposed to be ok with that.
This theory is a huge departure from Newtonian Physics where everything had a cause and effect. This old way of thinking was very tidy. If everything in the present is caused by things in the past, as soon as we finish up identifying and classifying every particle in the universe, we can predict what will happen next! In human psychology Freud proposed that every problem in the mind can be traced back to a previous trauma. All his patients had to do was go back and remember when their feelings were hurt. This was where Freud would work his magic to make the pain go away - a very clear line between cause and effect. If psychology was used to understand, predict, and then control human behavior, then the chaos theory might seek to identify the underlying order, so we can identify that one pulse to manipulate, to control human behavior. Because the one thing that hasn’t yet changed is, people still want to be in charge, and wish to leave little to chance.
It will be a while before the Chaos Theory asserts itself into my psyche where I will become more comfortable with uncertainty. Somehow, this quilt taught me that no logical system will ever be able to fully present the Truth about the Universe. The Universe seems chaotic to me because a mind bigger than me designed it. Truth can’t be measured using the human mind, no matter how brilliant that mind may be. And I’m supposed to be ok with that.