Chaos is my enemy

I actually said that recently.  During a job interview, as a matter of fact.

I tend to like order.  Not to the extreme of stifling creativity or preventing spontaneity, but, overall, I like to have things organized.

I’m not sure that I’m really truly a control freak or anything.  I can go with the flow with the best of them.  I’ve been known to drop everything and take chances/switch plans/directions at the drop of a hat- proverbial or otherwise (hats HAVE been left behind on occasion).

Before anyone starts thinking that I’m perhaps protesting too much, let me just say that I am well aware that my Virgo-Nature (as one of my BFFs- and fellow-Virgo- terms this propensity) sometimes gets the best of me.  I’m eminently self-aware about that little character trait.

I think it’s why, actually, I tend to gravitate to the mythologies of the Ancient Near East and Egypt.  The belief systems that came before and heavily influenced the beliefs and the worldview that would be recorded in the bible- those Testaments Old, New and extra-canonical- were based in the foundational dichotomy of the need for maintenance of order to stave off the constant incursions of chaos in the known world.

The myths- and the societies that developed according to the worldviews contained therein- saw the primeval forces of the universe as sourced in chaos.  In Mesopotamia this tradition was found in the stories of Tiamat – Mother-goddess of Chaos and origin of the world as we know it.  As in the world was created out of her defeated carcass.  Still, such was her power that even after Marduk’s victory her influence continued to be felt since we- and the planet we rode in on- were carved out of her physical remains.

We like chaos.  Or, at the very least, seem to gravitate toward drama and the exaggerated over-turning of societal norms.  Those same societal norms that were instituted in things like the Code of Hammurabi, those Ten Commandments, or the more numerous and somewhat onerous Levitical Laws.  They all served the same purpose.

Order vs. chaos.

The maintenance of the balance of the two.  Not the eradication of chaos- that would mean self-destruction, after all, coming as we did from the body of chaos herself- but the careful manipulation of behaviours so that order can keep it in check.

If the rules aren’t followed, the influence of Tiamat comes creeping back in to mess with the nicely ordered society that the gods- and the kings/priests/leaders who act on behalf of the gods- have created.  For our own protection, of course.  But also for the greater glory of those who hold the earthly power.

I get this- atavistically, and also because it suits my personality.  We need rules- be they rules of morality or practicality.   We also need to understand that rules are contextual in nature.  They are based on specific needs and sourced in specific times/places and, as such, should be subject to change as our context does so.

Somewhere along the line, the order/chaos dichotomy got changed into one of good/evil.  I’d argue that came about under strong influences from Zoroastrianism and its dualism, but that’s a discussion for a different day.

Bottom line (I’m trying to be succinct, for a change)?  Those things associated with order became the rules that described what is good.  Acting outside those rules became all about the evil.

Example?  That little story about the Garden of Eden and getting kicked out and that whole, much later, Augustinian nonsense about Original Sin?  Yahweh gave them one rule- ‘don’t eat from that tree.  The one over there.  All others are fair game, but leave that one be.’  (Obviously I’m paraphrasing here).  And what did they do?  They violated the prescribed order/rule and ate from that tree.

It’s called a ‘cautionary tale’ for a reason.

Right from the get-go we were being influenced by that crafty Tiamat (or her minions, who were myriad and took the forms of demons, ill-winds and, sometimes, serpents) to break the rules and let her get a little of her own back.

That’s an image of her up there ^^^.   It’s also the image that appears on my homepage underneath the name of the blog.  I believe in facing my fears head-on (I’m really not kidding.  One of my cats is named for the embodiment of chaos herself.  I was thinking along the lines of ‘naming something robs it of its power’.  Didn’t quite work out that way.  My Tiamat is pretty chaotic.  I blame myself for the misstep).  Please note that she looks like a great big snake, herself.

‘What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.’

My buddy- and fave OT dude- wrote that in Ecclesiastes (1.9).

Yep.  We are nothing if not a lather, rinse, repeat sort of a species.  We beg, borrow and often steal the stuff that came before us and apply it- generally willy-nilly- to our own social contexts.  Does that really sound like a remotely rational plan?

Despite my deep-seated appreciation of order, the need to examine from whence our conceptualizations of that order might have come is the very thing I’ve been (over-) emphasizing of late.  We are letting our leaders tell us what we should be watching/buying/doing and how we should be thinking/voting/spending our spare time.  Without any sort of examination or thought given to the context from which these prescriptions are coming.

Since we aren’t (last I checked), in fact, a Bronze Age culture trying desperately to assert our National identity among hostile ‘foreigners’ (whose land we’ve come to take) and therefore beholden to any notion of having our actions dictated as we are expected to blindly follow someone’s notion of what is ‘best’ for us, we really have to be looking more closely at these things.

We have so much opportunity and access to information that we HAVE TO make our decisions based in this cultural/social context rather than one that had its day more than 2000 years ago, half a world away.

That doesn’t mean that some of the rules- and the lessons contained within the rules and the stories that support them- mightn’t reflect universal truths and maintain some validity.  I’m not saying that at all.

But c’mon.

Take the time to weigh all sides/voices/contexts and see that we have, in fact, progressed from the city states/nomadic/monarchic civilizations that came so very long before us.  We have evolved.  In every conceivable way.  And the devolution of society that seems to be happening here and there is beyond distressing in the face of this reality.

We need a paradigm shift.  Bigtime.  Let’s forget about the whole externalizing/personification of evil/assumption of the existence of absolute good that we’ve inherited from later iterations of the Mesopotamian and Egyptian worldviews.  Time to let go of childish things- like devils and demons and primordial gods (although not the cats who bear their names) and take responsibility for our role in the balancing act that is life in the 21st century.

The maintenance of order is important.  It balances the chaos- of our own natures and of those things IN Nature over which we can exert no control.

I’m always looking for some order- and some New Order never goes amiss either…

‘I like walking in the park
When it gets late at night
I move round in the dark
And leave when it gets light
I sit around by day
Tied up in chains so tight
These crazy words of mine
So wrong they could be right’

And, unlike evil– and the way in which we tend to pass the buck by labeling and externalizing actions/people as such- chaos will always remain a part of the world and its perpetual motion.

There are things beyond our human control.  Yep.  There are indeed.  But the way we react to these incursions of chaos in our lives is completely in OUR HANDS.

I know he’s right.

There’s been enough chaos lately.  We need some great changes right about now.  But they aren’t going to happen all by themselves.

PS- So much for being succinct…

In case you were wondering… the interviewers seemed to both be pretty tickled by my comment regarding chaos.  So much so they offered me the job.  All being well, it’ll be onward to new challenges and a new venue- one that has a mandate for positive change and proactive involvement.  HUGE thanks to you all hereabouts for the support offered as this first realized step in my journey- more meaningful action in my day job.  Here’s hoping it will allow for the continuation of meaningful engagement in all aspects of my life.  If nothing else, it will help me, personally, to balance that foundational dichotomy as best as I can.

Songs for this long weekend

I realize that it isn’t an official long weekend, but I’m making it one by taking Monday off, so I’m getting a real head start by thinking about its soundtrack.  Got lots going on over the next few days, so I will need some good tunes to keep the energy level high and raring to go.

The temperatures are starting to drop (not that they’ve been all that up there this particular summer) and the evenings and mornings are starting to have the feel of August Camp.  You know, those mornings when you were a camp counsellor and would have to force yourself out of your warm cot and the many layers of clothing you were wearing to avoid hypothermia and go down to the lake to swim laps in order to avoid having to put $2 in the swim jar?  You know what I’m talking about.

Since 1879 the Canadian National Exhibition, on the shores of Lake Ontario, has marked the winding down of summer here in T.O.  When the Ex came to town you knew autumn was just around the very next corner, school was starting soon and it was time for one last piece of Summertime.

There are rides, of course- until the 1990s, visitors would risk life and limb riding the Mighty Flyer (‘rickety’ doesn’t begin to describe it) on Conklin’s Midway and the Polar Express still blasts its rock n’ roll songs (in my memory it was always Aerosmith) as you spin past the big white bears and answer the barker’s call of ‘Are you ready to go backwards?’ with a resounding ‘You betcha!’

The Horticulture Building beckoned, as something slightly more educational/in keeping with the agricultural origins of the Fair, with its wonderful blooms that would make my sinuses close and eyes swell up within a matter of minutes.  That’s actually where I first discovered that I’m pretty violently allergic to lilies.   Good times.  It’s a cheesy, douche-baggy club, now, but the building is still lovely.

Every summer the Princes’ Gates on Strachan Ave. welcome visitors in impressive Beaux-Arts style, with a triumphant Winged Victory atop the main arch.  She holds a maple leaf in one hand to assert her Canadian identity and role as greeter to one of the best traditions of the town.

I won’t make it to the Ex this year- though not because people seem to be getting sick from something they’ve been eating (the cronut burger seems to be the most likely culprit, but nothing definitive has been discovered as of yet).

The Food Building was a dreamy destination back in the day.  Everything was super-cheap and they had treats on offer that we never really saw at other times of year.  Sure, there are still all kinds of crazy varietals of interesting foodstuffs to be had, but they’re no longer cheap.

And some of the offerings are just plain insane.  Deep fried butter was the go-to trendy item a few years ago.  This year the popular ones are (or were- food poisoning fears and all) the cronut burger- approximately a billion calories and a strange (to my mind anyway) combination of savoury and sweet; the peanut and bacon milkshake (when did bacon become the ubiquitous food that everyone insists is their favourite thing in the world?  Not that there’s anything wrong with bacon, I quite like bacon, but it has become an Interworld meme food of choice.  I think the Pig farmers/marketers are behind it all); and the s’mores-covered hotdog.

THIS is a cronut burger.

None of that really appeals, TBH.  Not because I’m a health nut or anything.  I’d just prefer not to harden ALL my arteries in one afternoon at the CNE.

Anyhoo.

The Grandstand (or the Canadian version of the ‘Mistake by the Lake’) was the stomping grounds of the Toronto Argonauts CFL team and the first home of our Toronto Blue Jays before the Big Dome got built.  Our often-intemperate climate made the sports a tad problematic at times (snow on the field during baseball games that had to be cleared by a Zamboni borrowed from the Leafs, for e.g.  Seriously.  That happened) and the wildlife and wind from the lake offered their own share of challenges (Dave Winfield- while with the Yankees- was arrested for killing a seagull with a baseball.  Again, I kid you not).

Most of my associations with the Ex have to do with the Grandstand and the great (and the not-so-great- looking at you Bon Jovi, 1989.  We went because we had free tickets- a guy we knew had bought a whole passel of them because he figured it was the big ticket show that year and that he would make tonnes of cash scalping them to all those unfortunates who didn’t stand in line for them.  Like he did.  Apparently he misjudged the appeal of those particular Jersey Boys, so he ended up giving them away.   We went as a joke, I swear!  Although Skid Row- and taunting the Jon-loving rocker chicks sitting in front of us- and all around us, for that matter- was pretty amusing.  There was A LOT of hairspray and spandex in evidence that night.  Wow, this was a really long tangent.  Getting the train of thought back on track now) shows I saw there over the years.  It was a pretty great outdoor venue, and the tickets were cheapcheap, for the most part.

I saw SO many bands there, and the playlist on the Shuffle Daemon this weekend will be a stroll down memory lane paying tribute to some of those shows played at the grand ol’ Grandstand (whether or not they happened during the Ex proper, the Grandstand was all about the open air and the music by the lake.  Something about great tunes and lake breezes and a sky full of stars.  Heavenly).

September 4, 1983.  Bowie.  Serious Moonlight tour.  Sublime.  That’s all I have to say about that.

September 3, 1987.  Double bill.  Echo and the Bunnymen and New Order (and Gene Loves Jezebel, but I think we got there after their set.  Don’t remember it anyway).  Brit-tastic.

May 26, 1987.  The Cult.  And Billy Idol.  Wow.  The energy could have rendered Toronto Hydro obsolete (except for the electricity needed to power the show, so never mind.  Failed analogy).

October 3, 1987.  U2.  Joshua Tree tour.  This one was extra awesome- we had obstructed 1st-level seats and ended up moved to the floor!  Bono had dislocated his shoulder and performed with a sling.  My friend’s Mum got us the tickets.  You had to get a bracelet one day and go back the next.  One bracelet was good for 6 tickets.  She had her infant daughter in a stroller and someone in line suggested she get a bracelet for baby V.  We ended up with 12 tickets!  Great crowd of us.  Perfect Autumn night.  Although there was a tragic suede cowboy boot/peach schnapps incident, if I remember correctly.  The only fly in the otherwise flawless ointment.

June 9, 1988.  Depeche Mode.  The fourth (?) time I’d seen them.  They thrive in outdoor venues.  They’re at the Amphitheatre next weekend.  Sad I’ll be missing them.

August 6, 1988.  INXS.  Perhaps not quite as special as the show at Massey Hall the week that Kick was released, but Michael Hutchence was always on fire onstage.  An amazing showman.

I’ll finish the playlist with this one:

Thompson Twins Into the Gap tour.  It remains one of my favourite shows, and one of my sentimental favourite songs.  August 24, 1984.  29 years ago tomorrow.

Soundtrack of summers past.

I’m going to make the most of what’s left of this one.

Happy weekend!