Embracing chaos

In his review of a new exhibition of Claude Monet at the Grand Palais in Paris (Harpers, Jan 2011), John Berger notes that the great Impressionist “once revealed that he wanted to paint not things in themselves but the air that touched things – the enveloping air. The enveloping air,” he explains, “offers continuity and infinite extension.” It transforms a moment “into an eternity.”

A few months ago I took up yoga again, after a brief flirtation 25 years ago with asanas and pranayama, which is the exercise of moving air (one’s breath) through your body as you move into yogic positions. Each day of practice I dedicate the session to a different goal or emphasis: for example, focus, patience, being less critical, compassion… Today’s yoga practice was dedicated to embracing all aspects of my life – the mixed bag of how I make my living (a clumsy structure of orderly disorder governing multiple projects) paired with, and in constant conflict with, my writing. In other words, I dedicated today’s practice to embracing chaos.

For me, chaos is the underlying structure of the universe. It is randomness overlaid on discernible and more often than not indiscernible structures. It is conflict and dichotomy. Birth and destruction. Love and contempt. Darkness and light. Chaos is the infinite extension; it is Monet’s enveloping air.

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