The Edge of Chaos

After teaching for six years, I’m finally becoming certified to do so and, to that end, I am currently writing something very scientific and objective called a “literature review.” Objectivity really isn’t very much fun, but at least I get to read about chaos. Apparently, chaos is the state of frustration, anxiety, confusion, and messiness. When you’re in this state, you can’t concentrate or be nice to people. You are wimpering and cowering and fetal-positioning under the weighty mass of so much freedom. Order, however, isn’t candyland either; it is habit, rigidity, and boredom with all sorts of standing erectly and pushing strenuously against the weighty mass of non-freedom.  Where the good stuff–knowledge, creativity, and learning–happens is on the edge of chaos. And, in fact, as I picture myself tilting on the precipice, looking at all the messiness below and feeling a little dizzy at its nearness, I get a little jumpy, like I need to make that cheesecake, change out of my pj’s, and write my old college friends some letters, after all.

Since having Clara, I’m always on the edge: will I make dinner tonight? will I finish my third and final Groupon? will I turn the library books in on time? will I shave my legs this month? Until T. Barrett (2010) came along, I didn’t have the language to consider the positive implications of edge-dwelling.  Now, I imagine edge-dwelling to be a lot like yoga’s Warrior III. If yoga is the quieting of the mind, as Patanjali suggests, then there’s nothing more mind-quieting than balancing on one foot. That quiet must lead to the creativity that happens on Barrett’s edge. On the edge, you’re never back there or over there, but always right here.




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