Randomness and The Desire for Meaning

This morning, my children left a collection of items on the breakfast table - a model of the Eiffel Tower, a Rubix cube and a blue whale figurine sitting on top of a glass heart. These unrelated objects drew my attention and I wondered what they each had to do with the other. Nothing, as it would seem. They were just a random collection gathered from different corners of the house and abandoned here for what? No purpose, no meaning. I'm sure the kids were playing and there is something I don't know. 

Encountering randomness impacts us in different ways, beginning with the initial shock of meaninglessness, lack of relationship or cohesiveness to the context. Our brains either dismiss it altogether or work overtime to find the connecting pieces. This is true in the cases of tragedies such as the all-too-common shootings happening in our nation. Why did they do it? What purpose or motive spurred them on? It is also true in instances when we are faced with unexplainable situations, accidents, coincidences, anything that challenges reason. It can happen in art, when we just don't get what the artist was after. As human beings, it is in our make-up to search for meaning, to understand and to find points of connection. For some, random, unrelated circumstances evoke curiosity. For others, they bring anxiety. Order, design and meaning signify a caring attentiveness whereas disorder can be a sign of stress, apathy or depression. 

But to be fair, there is danger in divining meaning from everything we encounter. This can lead to false prophesies and imposed oracles sure to leave us disillusioned and hurt. I had a friend once who hated his job and wanted desperately to leave but he couldn't find the courage to quit. Every day, he would take his lunch break on the picnic table in the back and daydream about quitting his job. One day he noticed a plastic bag stuck in a tree limb across the way and said to himself, "I am that plastic bag, stuck here as it is stuck in those branches. When I see that bag blow free, it will be a sign to quit this job." The bag stayed for months and never tore free until finally, after a hard storm, it dislodged from the limb and he quit. 

This story tells me, we have a hunger for something larger than ourselves to guide and direct our lives. We want the confidence of something or someone who knows better than us to be in control. Left to ourselves, how can we trust the decisions to make? We can't see the full outcome of a choice, so every decision requires faith. But when we lack genuine connection, we rely on the oracles of plastic bags to guide our lives rather than the witness of our own hearts. 

That said, however, I don't mean to discredit genuine revelation. I love it when it comes and thrive upon seeing the "super" natural influence the natural. It reminds me this life is miraculous. There is meaning to be found within the strangest places. Poets and prophets are those sent to help us discover genuine meaning where the rest of us have seen none. They help us see in new ways, consider things overlooked and show us the deeper associations and relationships between things we ourselves did not connect. 

I looked at the Eiffel Tower, the Rubix Cube and the whale on the heart. I recalled my time in Paris, walking through the streets at night and coming upon an art installation of a large blue whale only blocks away from the Eiffel Tower. As it turns out, the Rubix Cube World Championship (Yes. There is such an event) was held in Paris last year. Is there anything to be made of this? 

Sorting through the disparate pieces of our lives is the process of shifting and turning a Rubix cube into place with all the right colors in the right places. It is the search for order, the search for things to be rightly related. Sometimes we can find meaning hiding behind esoteric combinations with secret associations. At other times, perhaps random is just random... or is it? Is there purpose in random?  

The thought of randomness disturbs both scientist and mystic alike. And this is the question both grapple with. Order and chaos. Design and chance. Coincidence and Intention. Did we come from an explosion of particles and simply happen to form into the beauty that is life? Regardless of religious conviction, this requires too much faith for me to follow. What are the probabilities of such intricate order to have emerged from chaos without the guiding hand of a designer? Life in every detail reveals the intentional artwork of a Creator. Instances of chaos or evil or incompletion or randomness don't deny the overarching elements of design, they serve to show us where we have been invited into the creative process. It is our role to contribute to God's art by engaging the places left unformed with our own creative contributions. Denying God based off the existence of evil or blaming God for what he hasn't done or what evil he has allowed doesn't absolve us from our responsibility to create.  We are the meaning makers and what we shape from the unrelated elements we find collected on our kitchen tables may very well be the solutions the world needs... or they may just be kids playing and we move on. 

Perhaps, the Eiffel Tower, the Rubix Cube and the Blue Whale on that glass heart were coincidental to have had actual associations with events in Paris. Perhaps, it was God telling me something huge was "on his heart" concerning Paris, or the environment or Rubix cubes or whatever. Perhaps or perhaps not. It lead to this writing and from here.... Who knows?