Monday, August 3, 2009


I remember as a grade schooler hearing the word chaos in a class about Greek myths. I tried to imagine what it meant. I mostly pictured one of those channels on the UHF frequency for television when it was off the air - a screen of white, blurred, static-y nothing. I suspect that was the image that came to mind because I watched that static-y nothing nearly every morning. I would get up in the grey light just in time for the channels to come on the air and start morning cartoons. It didn't occur to me at the time that the Greeks might find this funny. 

Yesterday, I had a more adult experience of chaos. We celebrated my daughter's fourth birthday with about 40 of her pre-school friends. There were also an additional 40+ parents and adults. And because the pouring rain had made our original, outdoor plan, impossible, all these folks were in our small house. 

Watching that many 3 and 4 year olds sitting round wall to wall bench tables eating pizza and destroying party favors and gabbling and crawling and throwing food I was immediately thrust into a kind of a pre-ordered state. It was as if reason itself was child soluble and there had been enough concentration of kids in one room to effect the change.  My wits and composure were undone and I drifted into a kind of unreasoning state. 

If there had been no other adults in the room, I'm not sure I would have recovered. But one look at the other queazy, dazed looks in those mature eyes was enough to bring me back to center. It was enough to know that I was not alone in a personal chaos - I had friends. 

As the crowd of little ones slowly dispersed at the end of the party I felt a great relief to have the ordered world return. I guess a part of me knew that things would calm down, but there was also a little part of me that was terrified that they would not. It was a little like the feeling of unease you get when you're not sure you've got on the right train; until you hear an announcement or see the sign for the first stop, there's a little sense of being lost. 

And I guess that's what I felt as a boy too, sitting in front of the television at 7 minutes to 7AM, waiting for the test pattern to come up, and a few minutes later the national anthem to play; and shortly after that the jingle for the cartoon Heckle and Jeckle (a pair of smart aleck-y crows) to make their daily appearance. There was just a moment or so when I worried that Heckle and Jeckle might never be seen again.   

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