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Is there order in chaos and chaos in order?
Is chaos order we don't understand?

Mark Renz

What I see in nature may not be the same thing you see. True, we're looking at the same critter or landscape or ecosystem. But once our brains process the scene before us, we may interpret the information in different ways.

Recently, a friend called my photography "cluttered". My ego was lightly bruised at first, but then I realized he was right. At that point, I could have said to myself, “Okay self, from now on there will be no clutter in your photos!”, and then set out to look for images more tidy. But in describing what he saw as a fault, my friend had inadvertently explained to me what makes me happy.

“You like clutter, don't you?” whispered that inner voice again.


“So why fight it?”

I reckon I don't see clutter as clutter. I see a sense of order in patterns within patterns within patterns. When I gaze through an old growth cypress swamp, I see a pattern to the randomness of tree placement and spacing; of girths and heights. I see patterns of variation in the shades of green cypress needles or the pleasing curvature of dozens of cypress knees. Yes, it's chaotic-looking and cluttered, if I am looking for a single focal point like one particular old tree, or an egret on a branch. But it's difficult for me to see nature in isolation. I'm moved by all of it, so I tend to photograph it in large swaths, or collections of patterns. That's what pleases me so that's what I capture and share.

Cosmic Clutter

Because of random mutations—Darwin's wonderfully defined mechanism for describing changes in a genomic sequence — our entire planet is in a constant state of array and disarray. What looks like perfect order is just that – if we freeze-frame the moment with our camera. But look back in time a second, an hour, a day, a decade or a century and we would see a different image. Look ahead a thousand years or a million and we realize all living things are constantly changing on a microscopic and macroscopic level.

On a grand scale, operating on a somewhat similar principal, the planets and stars in our Milky Way galaxy appear to move gracefully, with near perfect orbital patterns. But in the midst of all that perfection is Andromeda, a smaller galaxy on a possible collision course with the Milky Way some 3 to 5 billion years from now. Astronomers believe Andromeda may have collided with at least one other galaxy in the past.

Both galaxies contain over 100 billion stars, which is 100 million trillion possible collisions. In spite of these numbers, the odds that even 2 stars would collide are slim at best because of the vast distances between them.

One person might look at this big picture and conclude that the Universe and all the stars and planets are in perfect balance, while another person sees large-scale chaos. Is it possible they've both got it right?


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