FMBR Editorial: June, 2022
“Unlike the randomness generated by a system with many variables, chaos has its own pattern, a peculiar kind of order. This pattern is known whimsically as a strange attractor, because the chaotic system seems to be strangely attracted to an ideal behavior.”
— Gary Taubes, Discover, May 1989
In these apparently chaotic times, I, like many people, have been wondering: where is this all headed? We appear to be in truly transformative times, for better or worse, and it is easy and understandable to fall into despair from time to time, given the overwhelming rate of societal change and the sheer volume of our personal and collective conditioned beliefs that are up for reevaluation at any given time. Challenges abound.
I choose to believe that the universe has a direction and a purpose. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said “the arc of human history is long, but it bends toward justice.” He was paraphrasing Pastor Theodore Parker from the mid-19th century who said:
"Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of [that which is] right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice. Things refuse to be mismanaged long. Jefferson trembled when he thought of slavery and remembered that God is just. Ere long all America will tremble."
He was right. Just a few years after he wrote that, the Civil War broke out.
I think the idea of the arc of the evolution of the universe is correct; if we broaden our perspective and look at the arc of the history of creation, as we currently know and understand it, we can see patterns and cycles which point toward an evolution toward something. We see self-organizing systems that arise when the conditions are just right, conditions that are inherent in the nature of the constituting forces of the universe. We see organisms (from species to societal structures) change, adapt, transmute, as conditions change. Mathematician Alfred North Whitehead, writing about the same time as Reverend Parker, said that “the teleology of the universe is to create Beauty.” Teleology means purpose. The purpose of the universe is to create Beauty. Perhaps Beauty is the ‘strange attractor’ which calls creation forth in all its complexity.
In humans, love is the emotion that accompanies the experience of attraction and on some level, beauty is the instigator of attraction. Not necessarily physical beauty, but oftentimes a beauty of spirit or temperament or even a sense of shared purpose is what attracts people to each other. Now, we can speak of love and beauty in the limited sense: the emotion of love and the expression of physical beauty. But I like to think in terms of an expanded definition of both terms: there is the emotion of love, and there is the frequency of Love, as a creative force--some would say THE creative force--in the universe. It’s like that with Beauty.
I think of Beauty as synergy, expressed; it is the coming together of individual aspects of creation (be they matter, energy, experience) to create a greater whole, a coherent pattern. Mathematicians often speak of beautiful equations--equations that are elegant in their precision. When Martin Luther King talked about the long arc of history bending toward justice, to my mind, he was speaking of justice as an expression of Beauty. It is Beauty expressed in synergistic human relationships and in the alignment of societal behavior in support of human dignity. Beauty in food production would look like a synergistic cooperation and co-creation with nature, with the air, land and water. Beauty in an economic system would center care and compassion as the basis for providing for the wellbeing of every participant in that system.
Beauty across all sectors of society must include an awareness of ourselves as part of a larger whole, interconnected and interdependent. As Whitehead said,
“There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have consequences for the world around us."
The attraction to, and love of Beauty is an impetus for our soul’s evolution and the realization that we are the universe, creating as unique, centrated beings. This realization opens up endless possibilities constrained only by the limits of our imagination. As we move into more and more awareness of our part in the interrelated processes that lead to the evolution of our universe, perhaps we will step up and play our part to consciously participate in the teleology of the universe to create Beauty.