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Chaos in America

Posted Nov 18 2008 12:11am

Yesterday's keynote address at the Conference of Appellate Staff Attorneys was most excellent. The speaker began by setting out two rules of chaos theory, which he argues are universally applicable. First, every successful individual, organization, or society must develop a mechanism to mediate between order and regularity on the one hand and chaos and creativity on the other. Second, the success of the individual, organization, or society can be measured by the success of that mechanism, particularly in the areas of commerce, government, and ideas. Fortunately for Americans, the United States collectively has been more successful than most societies in all three areas.

I suppose that those of us who have experienced/are experiencing midlife crisis issues are seeing a swing from order to chaos, and perhaps need to tweak the mediating mechanism a bit. I also thought a bit about American corporate structures, and how they have moved from the top-down military-based model of post-war America to the flatter, more dynamic organizations that are internationally competitive. But to me, the more interesting question was how this chaos model might apply to religion in America. Could some established religious organizations be in trouble because they have effectively eliminated chaos and creativity, or might they flourish because they offer people order and structure in times of social chaos and creativity? Could the disaffection of some formerly religious people be, at its most basic, an expression of a preference for creativity and chaos, combined with a recognition that such cannot be mediated with the order and structure of the organization in question? I'm just saying.

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