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monologuing murdoc

On Order vs. Chaos

I was intrigued by this excerpt from Stephen R. Donaldson's novel Forbidden Knowledge:


"For convenience, history is often viewed as a conflict between the instinct for order and the impulse toward chaos. Both are necessary: both are manifestations of the need to survive. Without order, nothing exists: without chaos, nothing grows. And yet the struggle between them sheds more blood than any other war.

"The instinct for order is an expression of humankind's desire for safety (which permits nurture), for stability (which permits education), for predictability (which permits one thing to be built on another)--for equations of cause and effect simple enough to be relied upon. Indeed, without resistance to change, growth itself would be impossible: resistance to change creates safe, stable, predictable environments in which change can accumulate productively.

"The instinct for order is therefore aggressive. It actively opposes any alteration of circumstance, any variation of perspective, any hostility of environment or intention. It fights to create and defend the conditions it seeks.

"The impulse towards chaos is a manifestation of humankind's inbred knowledge that the best way to survive any danger is to run away from it. This instinct focuses on the resources of individual imagination and cunning, rather than on the potentialities of concerted action. Its most common overt expression involves an insistence upon self-determination (freedom from restriction), individual liberty (freedom from requirement), and nonconformity (freedom from cause and effect). However, such insistence is primarily a rationalization of the desire to flee--to survive by escape.

"Therefore the impulse towards chaos is also aggressive. The very act of escape breaks down systems of order: it contradicts safety, avoids stability, defies cause and effect. Like the instinct for order, it fights to create and defend the conditions it seeks.

"Nevertheless, stability and predictability themselves would be impossible without chaos. Chaos exerts the pressure which requires order to shape itself accurately. Without accuracy, order would self-destruct as soon as it came into being.

"For these reasons, the struggle between order and chaos is eternal, necessary--and extremely expensive. By nature, humans beings are at their most violent and belligerent in self-defense. The cost of their survival would be prohibitive in any less fecund universe."

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