Abandoning the World to Chaos - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Abandoning the World to Chaos
A computer-generated magical explosion in Space (sakkmesterke/Shutterstock.com)

Chaos came knocking on my door through Daniel Flynn’s morning email. Apparently, legislators in Minnesota are attempting to regularize the alphabet soup of “gender identities” by making a law. Well, that will settle it!

But one plucky legislator asked us not to forget the plus-sign at the end of the ever-growing list of letters. We should not make an exception and leave out those who are sexually attracted to children. Just tack a ‘P’ after the ‘Q’ and at last, the utopian order will be manifest.

Chaos is the precondition of divine creation, of wisdom and counsel of the highest level ordering this very world.

Well, that’s Minnesota, a long way from home, people driven half-crazy by no-see-ums, perhaps. But no.

Back here in sensible western Ohio, I was talking this week with a quality control manager in a factory I visit a hundred miles or so north-northwest of my home. We were talking about public schools in the area, and she told one story I had heard before and one I had not.

The first was that students there were no longer required to go only to bathrooms that matched their anatomy. No questions asked, apparently — anyone who claims to be female even if still sporting male genitalia is allowed in the women’s room.

This section of the state is about as conservative as it gets. The population breaks down in a 50-50 split between the Apostolics and the Catholics. But suddenly, anything goes and everyone goes along, probably murmuring quietly but, trusting to order, not willing to make waves and speak up.

That story I had heard before. Here’s the one I hadn’t.

My factory manager told me that now at these schools, they are also setting out litter boxes. “For the furries,” she said. The furries, if you haven’t heard, believe that one’s true species is not necessarily the one assigned at birth. Who are you to tell me what species identity as anyway?!

We wait expectantly for this legislator to confirm Justice Scalia’s observation in his Lawrence v. Texas dissent that once we remove morality as justification for laws governing sexual acts, we will have a hard time justifying laws against bestiality. (Quaintly, from the woke perspective, Scalia also envisaged with horror the permission of adult incest, but after all, why not add an ‘I’ after the ‘P’ and run the table?)

All right.

I come home and carry on a correspondence with someone trying to persuade me that the world is in fact a flat disk, that all the information we have about it being a three-dimensional spheroid is the result of a vast conspiracy. Oh, and since this is true, then obviously, there never was a lunar landing nor satellites circling the earth.

Chaos. Nothing holds anymore. Our most basic ways of ordering our lives, our families, our communities, our science, our culture, and our world are all under furious attack.

It seems the world rushing to trash everything and anything except the next idea that goes viral — and then to trash that in its turn. It’s only natural for anyone who has the least appreciation of all the hard-won prizes humanity has won in its long effort through the millennia to react with disbelief, horror, anger, or despair.

It’s just that if we have really learned what the previous generations had to teach us, we might understand that chaos has been present always and ever.

Back when I was in the middle of my sophomore year in high school, Ronald Reagan said:

Freedom is a fragile thing and it’s never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by way of inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation.

You might think a conservative would say that the gains we made in establishing freedom are permanent and secure. Instead, Reagan challenged people to realize that without it constantly being upheld, even as great a civilizational achievement as government by consent of the governed can crumble and be lost.

This world is not static. Chaos is always present. Anything in this world can and does fall apart, no matter how good.

This realization is there at the beginning of the great biblical tradition. The second verse of Genesis begins: And the world was tohu vavohu, and darkness was over the face of the abyss…

Tohu means chaos. The picture is of a world in which nothing is recognizable. No light. Immeasurable depths below. And, as the verse continues, there was water — the endless flux of liquid, which never on its own settles into one form.

Think of a sensory deprivation chamber. A person enters a pool of warm water, then a door is closed and there is no light and no sound. Nothing at all other than the formlessness of dark, silence, and the shapeless water.

But the verse is not yet complete: and the spirit of God was hovering over the water.

This world of formless, liquid chaos was not bereft of the greatest good. The spirit of God was hovering — engaging with chaos, yet unconfined by it — hovering over it.

The books of the Bible have oral traditions that were passed down along with the texts. Eventually they took literary shape themselves, giving voice to the Bible’s ever-renewing meaningfulness. These books are called Midrash.

In the oldest of these books on Genesis, Bereshit Rabba, it connects this mention of the spirit of God with the great prophecy of Isaiah about the Messiah: There will rest upon him the spirit of G-d. The Bible is telling us, says the Midrash, that even in the midst of the primordial chaos prior to anything being formed at all, the presence of the spirit of the Messiah was there, which is the spirit of God.

Just as chaos precedes the creation, so it underlies it. Human history shows how that chaos never stops poking through; biblical history shows it in all its terrible strength.

Yet it is never devoid of the highest ordering force, the spirit of the Messiah, which is, as Isaiah writes, a spirit of wisdom and a spirit of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of might and fear of G-d. Chaos is the precondition of divine creation, of wisdom and counsel of the highest level ordering this very world.

We who most value the good, we who strive always to conserve it, naturally fear its destruction. But fear of anything less than of the highest is unworthy and destructive. The spirit that Genesis is talking about, says the tradition, is also a spirit of fear of God. That is, a fear of God’s will not being done, of us choosing to abandon this world to chaos.

Chaos is not to be feared. It always underlies creation, and the word of God orders it into light and a world that God calls very good. It is our job to not bemoan the chaos and lapse into fearful reaction, but rather to seize the creative opportunity it offers.

Before we express the word that brings order out of this chaos, we are living in an unformed, wordless void. Our responsibility is to marshal that highest order, the one we so treasure, that we seek constantly, and with which we inform our lives, and then manifest it in words which form that chaos into a world of light.

The chaos becomes our own creative spur. Facing it without fear, we can transcend the clichés and caricatures that obscure our message, even to ourselves. With words alive and luminous, we will find one person after another joining us in the light, committed as we are to the fulfillment of the promise of government based on that divine image that is the core of the identity of each person in our republic, that divine image that inspires our dedication to our founding declaration, that all men are created equal.

We can face the chaos with faith and wed it to the order that we know is the source of meaning in our own lives. Accept the challenge, and bring forth all the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge which has till now been hidden within, and bring it to the world in its time of need.

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