May 20, 2009

"Spread a little chaos..."

Perhaps one of the best quotes from The Dark Knight, this line also represents a fundamental flaw in modern thinking. The Joker may be able to rip people's lives apart, but he cannot help being modern, and he cannot help being wrong.

Chaos is, by definition, the antithesis of order. If something isn't ordered, it's chaotic, and to get rid of chaos, one must order. Or, conversely, if one wants to disrupt order, one must break up chaos. This would be the modern definition, no?

Well, then, it would seem that the Joker is right. Killing people and destroying the social order spreads chaos. In a social sense, he is right. But, human beings are defined by far more than society. We existed before it did, anyway. What order preceeds societal order, and even self-regulated mental order? Natural order, of course.

The natural tendency of all things is toward destruction. This is a scientific property called entropy. In chemistry, this means that if the end result of a reaction is more chaotic than the beginning, it will happen. We can see the effects of this around us - cracks in the sidewalk, chips in the paint, dirt on the floor. When we drop a glass bottle - in other words, cease ordering it, it naturally shatters and breaks into fragments. In other words, disorder is the natural state of things.

Before you think I'm heretical, notice I say natural state of things, not supernatural. Obviously, God, being order, is not naturally disorder. I'm talking about the natural right now. In the beginning, darkness covered the void. Then God said "let there be light," and light was made. God ordered everything in the beginning, and the fall caused it to start breaking down from there.

Anyway, back to the main point. Disorder is the natural tendency of all things. A History Channel show, "Life After People," exhibits this perfectly. The producers of the show break down exactly how, after people die out, our creations and our work will fall apart and be ruined. The natural tendency toward disorder will win out, despite our intentions.

Thus, we can conclude that, as Chesterton would say, order is really the thing to be wondered at, not disorder. A glass shattering is not nearly so beautiful as the glass itself. The fact that man can extract minerals from the billions which abound in nature and make himself a vessel for the drinks he brings out of nature with the sweat of his brow is far more beatiful than cruel nature reclaiming her own few pieces of shattered glass. The fact that man can take such a disordered mob and form out of it cities, and societies, and human relations is more than just putting things in their place - it's a miracle.

Thus, we come back to the Joker. If the natural tendency of things is chaos and disorder, isn't it far more chaotic for us to break this natural tendency and order things? Isn't one block set atop another far more revolutionary than toppling a building, given that the building will topple of its own accord in a few years? Isn't the giving of one penny to a poor boy far more revolutionary than shooting him, given that he'll be dead of his own accord in a few years? Isn't building a society that functions and thrives more revolutionary than breaking one down, given that we'll all be dead in a few years anyway? So spread a little chaos - love a little.

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Anonymous Der Wolfanwalt said...

I have an issue with the assertion that man precedes society. Mainly, I have an issue with it because we have no frame of reference for it.

From the perspective of sacred history, man has existed in society ever since God said that "it is not right that Man should be alone." If you want to get really technical, he was in society from the moment of creation, for at his first moment he stood in a slightly different relationship with God that we do now.

From the perspective of natural history, if you hold to the idea that we evolved, well...primates are social animals. I'm not aware of a species of ape that lives in solitude, and I see no reason for evolution to meddle with a valuable social instinct.

The upshot is that I don't think that it's actually valid to say that man precedes society. I also don't know whether that has a meaningful impact on your thesis here, but I'd be interested to know what you think.

May 21, 2009 12:43 PM  
Blogger Ambrose said...

St. Augustine talks about preceeding in several different ways. Obviously, there is temporal. There is also, however, causal. God preceeds time, for instance. He cannot preceed time temporally, since we can't talk about the time before time. However, since God created time, he must preceed it causally.

Hence, since man obviously creates his own society, he must preceed it causally. Or, in other words, man must come before society, since without man society would not be. Man causes society, and thus preceeds society causally.

Hope that cleared things up.


May 21, 2009 2:07 PM  
Anonymous Der Wolfanwalt said...

I would take issue with the idea that Man originates society. It seems to me that God built society into the DNA of Man, and that Man is not naturally fulfilled unless he is in society. I'm throwing Aristotle around somewhat by saying that, I know; and I'm not saying that individual men can't be fully human outside of society, but I would argue that society is as old as Man, by design.

Man may originate discreet socio-political orders, but these are only called "societies" insofar as they participate in the idea which is baked into what we are. Two humans in the same place, interacting, constitutes a society at its most basic level, and that isn't something caused by the's something the individuals are impelled to do.

In either event, I'm trying to see how the original assertion that man precedes society relates to the qualified wrongness in the Joker's position. I suppose that if the order of nature is discrete from the order of society in relation to Man, then that would create an issue for him. I guess I'm still not convinced that there is such a division.

May 22, 2009 3:42 AM  
Blogger Shakespeare's Cobbler said...

Let me see if I can set aside references to ancient guys whose names started with A, as smart as they were, and translate the current A-named thinker's ramble into one sentence (albeit a long one; I really should learn German).

We normally think of order as the natural way and chaos as evil and against it, but in actuality the natural way is disordered chaos (as can be seen by many examples) and to order things for good is what's being contrary; and the Joker's line just happened to make me think of the contrast between the senses we tend to use these words in, such "natural order" which in this closer analysis is an oxymoron.

(Frankly, I think the distinction about societal order and natural order was just there because every once in a while you get a seeming Joker who breaks down societal order because it has become evil -- the righteous revolutionary fighting a government or social structure that is doing harm -- but as we didn't go into that reversal of positions, the distinction never became relevant.)

Would you say that's accurate?

May 22, 2009 12:18 PM  
Blogger Shakespeare's Cobbler said...

That should have been "such as" where I have just "such".

May 22, 2009 12:19 PM  
Blogger Ambrose said...

Yeah, that would pretty much be it, Mr. Cobbler. Thank you.

Der Wolfanwalt, man *has* to originate society. Without man, there isn't society. Even if God "hardwired" it into us, society requires us since we make up society.

May 23, 2009 7:27 AM  

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