As an observer, I’m an expert on the matter of chaos. Most of the chaos in the universe hides out in my closet, in my sock drawer. I know what I’m talking about. The closest thing to law and order to pass through there was the Roomba vacuum cleaner, which one day decided to eat all the uneven socks that had disappeared under my bed. It died of an overdose. Self-help tip: never attempt human resuscitation techniques on an autonomous vacuum cleaner. I’ve tried it. It sucks. And if someone were to barge in on you unexpectedly, you’re guaranteed to have a very hard time explaining away why it looks like you’re making out with a cleaning robot in your room. For far less have there been million-dollar breakups between Hollywood black holes. Sociological moral: Chaos always brings more chaos. Misery, heartbreak, and sometimes cold sores.
Order requires someone to assert themselves. And someone else to accept authority. It would be great if the world were like what progressive educators believe the mind of a child is, but the truth is that without a certain amount of order, children tend to devour those educators with as much gusto as any jungle animal would devour an animalist recording a TikTok video to demystify the aggressive nature of lions.
At first you might think that a messy home is a symbol of freedom. But you soon realize that it’s exactly what keeps one from feeling free enough to decide whether or not to wear two matching socks that day.
I myself have tried to get my mischievous socks to behave. I failed. In my opinion, when your socks refuse to do as they’re told and get in the drawer to join their better half immediately, your house is on the verge of anarchy. I try to be assertive, but I realize that I lack the moral high ground when I see them pointing cynically at my desk, the only spot in Spain that, in 2020, officially remains a war zone. In the last archaeological excavation I undertook on the papers heaped on my desk, I discovered an unpublished novel I wrote 20 years ago. Sometimes chaos can give you pleasant surprises. But it’s not the norm. My publisher often asks me, “Shall we think of a new book or take a look in the nether regions of your desk?” To which I would normally respond, “Show me the money or get the hell out.” We love each other.
At first you might think that a messy home is a symbol of freedom. But you soon realize that it’s exactly what keeps one from feeling free enough to decide whether or not to wear two matching socks that day. How can I explain it? It’s the reason the Statue of Liberty is the way she is, instead of a messy, wobbling, bottle-brandishing drunkard.
However, I will say something else about the color of socks and chaos: Heraclitus said that no one bathes twice in the same river (it’s not a literal quote because that arrogant Greek won’t answer my calls). But the philosopher forgot to say that no one puts on the same pair of matching socks twice: I assure you that the color of a pair of socks fades dramatically with each wash, and that it does so asymmetrically, no matter how hard you try to wash them at the same time. That’s my excuse for when the mess seems untenable and I’m peering into an abyss of melancholy: I accept that order is sometimes ontologically impossible. Then I open a bottle of wine and I start to forget. From the fourth bottle onwards, all the socks start to look cool. But be careful with this technique. Last night I overdid it with the drinks cabinet searching for the perfect pair of socks, and I ended up seeing a dozen of them doing the Baby Shark dance on my bed. I can’t stress it enough: chaos always begets more chaos. Mommy Shark is not happy.
In the absence of wine and Baby Shark, I am at peace. I admit, however, that sometimes electronic devices make me lose my patience. When I was a kid and the TV went fuzzy, we could fix it by smacking it with the palm of our hand. Those old antennas were pretty cool — and yes, I know, I knew dirt when it was still a rock. Now that I’m all grown up, whenever a device exasperates me, I react by smacking it a little. I know it’s no excuse, but when a website takes a while to load, you might very well find me kicking the modem. I know it’s useless, but it makes me feel better. I guess it’s the same feeling you get going to a Bernie Sanders rally.
So I understand those whose first impulse while trying to fix things is to wreak a little havoc. But even from that condescending perspective, I find no connection between George Floyd’s awful death and the theft of 50 luxury cars, the smashing of fast food restaurants, or the burning of small businesses in impoverished neighborhoods. This time, I truly can’t see any real reason for this worldwide crusade of chaos and agitation except for one, which of course has nothing to do with racism: that there is a Republican in the White House, not a Democrat.
Chaos is part of a plan. Some time ago Benedict XVI put his finger on it: “Those who desire a totalitarian regime try to induce attitudes of real anarchic freedom in individuals, and create a situation of conflict where it’s all against all, in order to … later present themselves … as the authentic saviors of humanity.” I don’t think that the Pope Emeritus was referring to the situation in my room, nor was he implying that the socks are plotting a plan to take control of my house and install a totalitarian regime in collusion with the unwashed pots and pans in the sink, but I cannot think the same of those who are sowing the streets with terror, chaos and injustice. Without order, without law, there is no freedom, only dictatorship.