The following essay was originally read live at Write Club Chicago.
We are taught to fear chaos, and seek solace in order. We are taught that chaos breeds peril, that the unknown and uncontrollable is scary. In our fiction, the orderly are noble and just, dour but badass Jedis who eschew basic human connection for the betterment of the world.
All of this is a convenient lie. Order is a neat, efficient way of stifling uniqueness and snuffing out questions. Chaos liberates. It destroys oppressive order.
Also, crucially, chaos is fucking cooler than order. Forget the honorable, orderly Jedis. They sucked. They weren’t allowed to bang.
In real life, the orderly are boring ass boy scouts who graduated the DARE program, and who floss to distract themselves from jacking off. Chaotic people are merry pranksters, mold-breaking revolutionaries, and neurotic firebrands who know how to fucking party. They are constantly reinventing new, dope-ass ways to upend authority. They’re the group of sisters at your high school who beat up a bride at her own wedding, and stole the spare tire from her hatchback, retribution for an antigay insult hurtled at school. Which is to say, they’re fucking fun, alright. The chaotic are not perfect, by definition, but they give life its texture and interest.
Not with me yet? Here’s a list: Lex Luthor is Orderly. The Joker is Chaotic. Kermit the frog and Sam the Fucking Eagle are orderly. Miss Piggy and Animal are chaotic. Obi-wan Kenobi is orderly. Han Solo is chaotic. Captain Earl Grey Snoozefest Picard is orderly. Badass messy sluts Kirk, Janeway, and Q are chaotic.
And I know what you’re thinking, you Gen X nerds: Spock is orderly, and he’s fucking cool! But what’s cool about Spock is the vulnerable humanity ever-leaking through his icy, Vulcan sheen. In all orderly characters, what’s interesting is the chaos that rumbles beneath the orderly façade. Chaos can even make order interesting.
Chaos is seductive. Every moment of chaos is a bold, red exclamation point kicking through the stultifying din of existence. Chaos is liveliness. Chaos is life.
That last part is literal. Without randomness and mess, humanity in all its feckless complexity would never exist. Chaos is the engine that propels evolution forward, skittering in a thousand different colorful directions. Mutations are a gift of chaos. They are what make change possible. Chaos gave bacteria the rotating flagellum tail, granting life voluntary movement for the first time. Chaos led us out of the water, gave us fur, fingers, stomachs, large brains, and larger pelvises, lips and multi-muscled tongues and language. Without accidents of DNA copying, nothing that gives life its diversity would have existed. Without chaos, there is no growth.
Chaos is evident in every revolution and worker’s revolt, every act of civil disobedience and strike. When Sojourner Truth risked re-enslavement again and again, against her own best interest, so she could free others in bondage, she was being chaotic. When Marcia P. Johnson threw the shot glass that started the Stonewall Riots and birthed the LGBT rights movement, she was being chaotic. When an unnamed Chinese man stared down tanks at Tiananmen Square, he was chaotic. Every single one of those grimy Antifa motherfuckers who punched Richard Spencer this year –four times so far, and counting — was chaotic as a bag of cats unleashed in a sharknado in the upside down.
You could argue I’m being too tidy, dare I say too orderly, in my choice of examples. So let’s fuck it up. Let’s get wild. Donald Trump and the doddering, hateful confusion that he emits constantly is chaotic. North Korea is chaotic. Terrorism is chaotic. Paranoid libertarian fuckbags disregarding climate science and accumulating stockpiles of weapons and canned peas in their basements are, no doubt about it, frothing at the mouth chaotic.
Chaos can cause harm on a massive scale. But it’s systems of order and law that protect unjust power and do consistent, systematic evil on a large scale. Donald Trump, chaotic has he may be, got his wealth and status through an orderly system of corporate welfare, regressive taxation, and legal exploitation. War, chaotic as it looks, is turned into a self-perpetuating business through orderly systems of military industry and state power. Those fuckbag libertarian voters are themselves chaotic, but their ideologies were created by the gun and oil industries, which are meticulously organized in their methods of lobbying, misinforming, and manipulating.
Chaos can be scary, but the evil of order is unrelenting. Cops who kill innocent black people are protected by an orderly system. Corporations who ruin water sources and poison the impoverished are protected by law and order. Order only promises safety to those already winning the game. Chaos is sloppy, but it lets tables be turned.
Chaos doesn’t choose sides. It can be leveraged for evil or good. But it does change the game. By recasting the die, rewriting the rules, reinterpreting the standards of success, and flipping the table over at the last minute, chaos renews us. And if there is something you care about, some orderly, tidy system of oppression, or organized force of ignorance you want to fight with every fiber of your being, you better be willing to get a little chaotic, too.
Chaos is for all those who will rule themselves. For those of us who flout labels and spit, always, at faces looming from above. Chaos is for messy bitches and iconoclastic party animals, mutants, evolved beings, children of war, and paradigm shifting dreamers alike. Chaos is all around us, always turning the tides and shattering our most formidable facades, letting our most challenging, conflicted humanity break through. It’s scary because freedom is scary. But it’s also fucking cool.