Chaos and Confusion
During a time of change, things can appear chaotic and cause confusion. Spinoza said that “all things long to persist in their being,” and Schopenhauer said that “to live is to suffer.” Chaos and confusion can provide a space for you to prepare for change. During times of uncertainty, many things can throw you a curveball and trigger your emotions. An unforeseen event can be as simple as the lights going out or a fire breaking out and can put us instantly in a mode of fear, but what happens next is up to you.
Some survive by adapting, while others are more creative and will use whatever they have on hand, both mentally and physically. When faced with chaos, the human spirit is boundless. The challenge is to direct that power into a constructive outcome by embracing the randomicity, as Robert Daniel Ennis used to say.
When people are asleep, they can self-destruct or experience severe trauma, as when someone survives a natural or man-made disaster. Because they are in fear, they are usually unable to use reason and logic, and they see a world of inherent conflicts. Those traits make it hard for them to cope with change, uncertainty, and unpredictability.
Survival and Understanding
Through this practice, you learn to survive chaos and change. You use your emotions as part of your decision-making process, rather than being in flight-fight mode. This understanding frees you from the fear of the consequence of the uncertainty surrounding you because those fear-driven emotions that come from your imagination are not reliable. Emotions can be your friend or your enemy. Keeping a cool head will make you more resilient. When you gain two inches of separation from the accidental cause of the emotion (Spinoza’s Ethics, Part 3, Proposition 50), you gain the ability to act from reason rather than react from your imagination.
If your emotions will take over and cause confusion, you act impulsively, and you may even find that you have no idea what to do next.
Survival and understanding are about endurance and luck, not genius or brains. It’s not an intellectual exercise: it’s physical and emotional survival. A group of human beings who have managed to survive a natural disaster has one thing in common: they are resilient, but they also have a high degree of perceptive intelligence that allows them to see beyond the obvious. This behavior you can only experience when you are in the present. When you are in your imagination, you think about all the things that might go wrong and seek to solve them in your mind, causing confusion and panic. As the Zen saying goes, ‘whatever you do will be wrong, but as you can only act necessarily, as Spinoza put it. That’s when you will find that the solution is simple because you are no longer the goose in the bottle.