From Chaos to Wisdom

Wouldn’t it be such a great thrill if all the dreams and plans about our life were just exactly as we planned or dreamed? Who would not want that? It would make all of us happy and secure! In the concrete, that means we would have the perfect spouse, perfect parents, perfect children, perfect siblings, unblemished family, perfect pastor and parishioners, great job and pay, wonderful house to live in, faithful and loyal friends, excellent weather, excellent health, optimally functioning body and mind, and everyone would understand everyone! One more thing: we shall all die only at a very ripe old age! Life would move just in the right and clear patterns that respects our plans and dreams and expectations. In this imaginary world I am describing, there will be less suffering and no emergencies or unexpected events that would disrupt our well-planned life, because everything would be so predictable. The weather people will never, ever be wrong in their forecasts; the stock market will never go up and down; and there will be no natural disasters or even accidents on the road because all drivers would behave themselves!

I know you already feel this is fantasy. But don’t forget that in some ways we all wish and believe at a very unconscious level, that things should be like this. After all, from the perfect world of our mother’s womb through the early stages of our childhood, when our simple cry makes everyone run to make us feel well, we come to believe that life is very predictable. As we grow, we learn to be more realistic and wiser through the disruptions that we encounter: the unexpected ill health, soured relationship of all kinds, children that have challenges, loss of job, a loved one who passes, conflicts at the workplace, and all forms of natural disasters and accidents. These disruptions can be so humbling, and if we fail to accept the humility, we set ourselves up against the starkness of a reality that refuses to be totally predictable.

Physical sciences have always prided themselves for being so exact as to be completely predictable. This belief in this capacity has also been the underlying factor in elevating rational thoughts over and above any other form of knowledge such as faith and intuition. However, the recognition of predictable unpredictability at the heart of all life has led to the development of Chaos Theory, which acknowledges the behavior of dynamic systems. Since all aspects of life are dynamic even when it is steeped indeterministic laws, it means that even deterministic laws do not allow for complete predictability because of the dynamism of the systems. This is one important reason why no one should be too upset that meteorologists sometimes get weather forecasts wrong or a doctor sometimes fails to know what is wrong or even misses a diagnosis, or that the poll experts at times fail to predict who wins the next election!

But so it is in our lives. Things do not always go as we want or dream of. It is faith that introduces us into that area of life where we become humble and accepting of the invisible hand of God that guides our steps through the predictable and chaotic events that we encounter and leads us to wisdom. We grow wiser as we grow more humble and we grow more humble as we realize that our rational knowledge of life is very limited. Only God is all-knowing. That is why Jesus invites the disappointed disciples to believe in what the prophets have said about him, that he should suffer and rise again from death. Things did not go as they expected. But Our Lord is teaching them as he teaches us today: in the end, everything will be okay because God is the one who holds our life well. Which is why it is so true that knowledge of God is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). Have faith in God, and you will have life to the full (Jn. 10:10).

~Fr. Cornelius Okeke