Between 'Order' and 'Chaos' : Faith ~ Guest Contributor, Eleanor Kiel
I recently read Dan Brown’s 2017 novel Origin. These phrases are presented by the character Edmond Kirsch - computer scientist, outspoken atheist, and former student of leading man, Robert Langdon - as he begins a demonstration on a discovery that he purports will dismantle the world’s religions.
Kirsch continues his presentation by explaining that the human brain is wired to create order when faced with chaos. This made sense to neat-freak me and explained my discomfort when gray Legos migrate into the white Lego bin, or my love of rearranging my mother’s kitchen counter, or my visible wince when the tenors in my church choir sing a quarter step flat. Kirsch expounds his argument by saying that when humans are faced with the inexplicable, they make up answers that will give a sense of order. Thus, the multitude of stories told by cultures and religions to explain creation and what happens at the end of life as we know it.
Kirsch’s argument continues by answering the questions “where do we come from” and “where are we going” through science. He proposes that our origin is answered through the laws of physics; that the universe, although it favors chaos, creates order to more efficiently spread energy, thereby escalating chaos. That’s kind of like when you add a bouncy house to a toddler’s birthday party - it gives kids an outlet to disperse their energy, but inevitably the bouncy house will create more chaos. At least, that’s the explanation of this particular woman who opted out of high school physics (and *just* slid through chemistry thanks to a soon to be retired teacher).
Like all Dan Brown novels, he manages to take a bunch of really cool factual information on science, art and religion, and weave it into a delicious cotton candy work of fiction. I found, however, that Origin, rather than challenging my faith, reminded me of the first stirrings of my spirituality.
I think back to my first acting experience in 8th grade when performing the Finale from the musical Godspell; as our director yelled “undulate! undulate!” and we writhed in response to Jesus’s crucifixion, I felt an inexplicable energy rushing through me.
I remember sitting on the shores of Lake Superior, holding on for dear life as I allowed the frigid waters to crash on me, in total awe of the power of the created world.
I recall while in college, after a *bit* too much partying, having a visceral sensation of being surrounded by and made up of invisible particles of energy, constantly moving, and that these were the unseen creative force of the universe.
That same Holy Spirit ripped through me as I triumphed after 25 hours of labor with a V-BAC delivery of my second son.
In Brown’s Origin, Robert Langdon ponders whether the laws of physics could simply be another name for God. That’s the way I think about it. If faith is creating order from chaos, then maybe my yearly toy organization is an act of faith - a way to ponder the Great Chaos of the Universe and the Grand Physicist who organizes all of us to go forth and disperse more energy, love and chaos to the cosmos.
Eleanor Mamer Kiel is Director of Liturgy and Music at St. John Vianney Church and moonlights as a group fitness instructor. In her LBK (life before kids) she was an active performer of musical theater and opera. She and her husband of 18 years are parents to two wonderful boys.