A Great Disorder

December 11, 2012 § 19 Comments

A. A violent order is a disorder; and

B. A great disorder is an order. These

Two things are one. (Pages of illustrations.)

Wallace Stevens, “Connoisseur of Chaos “


My expectations explode against hard reality.

I end up not where I am supposed to be.

Nothing unfolds according to plan.

Just once, could things happen as they are supposed to happen?  Just once, could what I seek come my way as I imagined?

In Zen we say that all things exist in disorder but against a background of perfect harmony.  I have tried in so many ways to see and feel that harmony.  I have even pretended to grasp it.  But I don’t.  I feel no order or harmony- just swirling and cruel chaos.

Where is this harmony?  How can it be mine?

All this grief and questioning and doubt, I now understand, arise from one simple mistake.  I keep supposing that I can control what will come.  I imagine that when I do X today, then Y will happen tomorrow.  I seek to impose order upon the disorder.  And when I fail, as I must, I rage against it all.

The harmony, I know, is right there.  Waiting for me.  The key to that ecstatic existence is right here.  Simple acceptance.  Undiluted, sure, steady acceptance of all that is and all that I am.

I know these things.  And I know that I am moving closer and closer to that way of being.  Substituting that simple truth for that simple mistake.  To be purged of rage, filled with gratitude and acceptance.

Closer and closer.

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§ 19 Responses to A Great Disorder

  • Pazlo says:


    Thanks for some nice thoughts. You’re on the right track, and my hope for you is that you may crest the hill soon.

    You, these words, all part of the chaos which I view on a beautiful background of harmony. One must truly see to know the harmony is chaos. Harmony does not mean order and control, it means things that work together naturally.

    A favorite quote, credited to Hebrew proverbs:

    “Man plans, God laughs.”

    All that is needed to navigate the harmonious chaos is simply a vision of being content today and tomorrow.
    All things fall into place if you let them, the struggle is to see and accept the place and state into which they have fallen, and not try to second-guess the cosmos.

    This life is more akin to a basketball game. No one can predict the details of every second. Where each player will be, where the ball will be, the physics of the arc, the inertia, the conservation of angular momentum.

    A basketball game is well-played by entering the arena with a simple goal: score more than the opponent.

    The entire game is a metaphor for life’s actions. One must watch, see, anticipate and react without specific plans of execution, but with the goal ever-present and driving all actions.

    Be at peace,


  • smithdavid says:

    relate to this completely tom. these days i think of disorder as like being on a board in the ocean. you can be fit and skillful but there is only so much you can do in the face of the might of nature. the best thing to do is let her take you.

    another great post, simply told. dave

  • julienmatei says:

    Where are we supposed to be…? WHO is supposing, and above all – WHY?…

    Homer put this in a grand manner:

    God has bestowed man with Reason, in order for us to understand that it is of no avail.

    The Secret of Existence baffles us each step. I do wonder how others seem to get things done according to a plan. Anticipated agenda…- it never works for me either.

    To be honest, I no longer know WHAT it works.

    Both “harmony” and “disharmony” must go. Harmony, real unadulterated harmony is the Death of Concept, the thing we fear most…

    The impending question is: Can we ever own Death?…Or are we supposed to die to whatever control, expecation and “mistake” entails…?

    The kind of Order we seek is neither “order” or “disorder”. It is overwhelmingly irrational. Mazy. Intriguing. But indefectable.

    Being always loses the battle no matter how subtle its agenda is…The hardest lesson is thus, to learn to un-be.

    To know means equally to have the guts to “not know”…Closer is a vague denomination…There are no degrees as to “nearness” or far. Far is near, near can be far…Fear is near, fear can be far…You know that very well by now.

    Let it be a mistake. “Failing” can be the guide to the unmistakable…

  • DIRNDL SKIRT says:

    “I know these things.” Knowing…what a gift and a hindrance! Trying to convert knowing into being is not easy. But you ARE getting closer and closer. It’s palpable, here.

  • Gigi wanders says:

    My dear friend

    Too much desire, too much grasping.
    Too little only here, too little only now.


  • Lori Rothschild says:

    Hi Tom-
    Thinking of you today. Gorgeous day walking Shelby and I hit a spot along Seminole where I was sure it was the perfect moment. The sun was shining brightly on the cobblestones and the sky a brilliant shade of blue you don’t usually see in Pittsburgh this time of year. I wanted to freeze the happiness I felt at that moment. I left thinking, “Why aren’t I less miserable more often?” And I thought of your blog and it comforted me. Because I know we would all love to string more of those glimmers together but it’s OK and it was good to have that one today. 12/12/12 I’ll remember it.

    • Thomas Ross says:


      Thanks so much for the lovely message.

      We are in SC- cold and rainy but the ocean still a source of peace for me.

      You should shoot for more than being “less miserable more often.” You sound a little like me in my more despairing posts. Each of us should experience glimmering moment after glimmering moment.

      And each moment that isn’t so glimmering in our experience is now gone and so this moment is another chance, a fresh start, moment after moment.


  • Jude says:

    I’ve not read a lot about Buddhism, but the one thing that sticks in my mind is concerned with attachment. If one doesn’t become ‘attached’ to any idea or outcome then disappointment doesn’t arise. It’s great to have a goal, or start a journey, but there’s no guarantee that we’ll reach that goal. And maybe we were never meant to? Maybe the way we were forced to go was the lesson we were supposed to learn?
    I like Anne’s words in her comment above: ‘Allow, accept surrender to the universal plan for YOU and let life lead you the way!

  • Thomas, once again you have managed to reach inside…..and give voice to our human struggles…..to mirror our thoughts in your message….of hard lessons learned in our efforts to control… in surrender…grasped.. but not practiced…..the cycle repeats…..Perhaps this is our ‘Ground Hog Day’.

  • chrisbkm says:

    Hi Tom.

    Imagine stepping away from expectation altogether. The rage. The pounding of ones head against the wall until it bleeds. Where would we find ourselves but in the ever elusive “present”? More and more the only thing I aim for is “presence”.

    Didn’t someone once say, “Stop thinking, and end your problems.” I wish!

    Be well.


  • aawwa says:

    A former partner of mine used to tease me when things didn’t work out the way I thought they should. He jokingly pointed out that I had a script for the day and I held expectations as to how things should be. He reminded me that we are powerless over people, places and things. Today I can identify this in myself and just smile and remember that I am the only one with the script 🙂

  • It all comes from the acceptance that we really don’t have control. To see this thing called life as an adventure with all that comes with it, good or bad. When we truly are able to let go is when we gain control. 🙂

  • Anne says:

    Hi Tom,
    When we allow our life to unfold naturally without putting limits of timescales, accept what is, and allow our life to magically unfold, then this is true bliss. Always something will block us! this can be seen as divine order and the true path we are meant to travel! Many times in my own life things have not gone to ‘my plan’ but always something better unfolds for me. Allow accept surrender to the universal plan for YOU and let life lead you the way! Blessings Anne.

    • Thomas Ross says:


      I do feel closer to this way of being you so beautifully describe.

      Life does “magically unfold” when you exist in this centered, peaceful way. Right now, I look up and see the gray sky, bare trees, and scattered leaves and feel at one with it all.

      In choosing this way of being, we each exist alone, in the sense that no one can take us there, no one can give us that peace. But for me, knowing that you are there, and the others, is a very big thing. I can be alone and not feel alone.

      All blessings.


  • brendamarroy says:

    You sound frustrated and disillusioned and I empathize. I’m sitting here wondering what to say to you, knowing I could point out a few things and quote some simple truths….but, as a fellow traveler who cares, I believe the best thing I can offer right now is….I hear you and it’s okay.

    • Thomas Ross says:


      So helpful, so wise.

      When we seek to “fix” or “cure” the other person, we always fall short. To be just there, fully and lovingly, is the greatest gift- a gift that you have given me, time and again.


  • acceptance and a surrendering “of,” not “to,” our expectations/desires within the disorder so that the harmony can unfold within our spirits

    • Thomas Ross says:


      Acceptance is the path to being with that harmony. Less thinking here, more being is the way.

      Thank you.


      • Yes, less “just do” and more “just be.” I strive for that daily, and my prayer for each of us is that we can find ways to accept and surrender within the context of our individual journeys.

        Many blessings and peace to you, Tom.

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