As I type the date into my journal entry I suddenly am reminded of what today is. Eighteen years ago I was working at Bank One in downtown Chicago as an executive assistant for a team in the Syndications Department. I arrived at my desk and looked down the floor to see a whole group of people gathered - standing in front of television screens. Another assistant passed my desk - I hadn’t even sat down yet - I asked her what was going on?
“A plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center.”
“Yes” she continued to walk back down to the group.
In the thirty or so steps it took me to join them, I was thinking a small light craft had veered off course and certainly not a Boeing 767 jet. Something that big just didn’t make sense.
I sat down to write today on the idea of how difficult it is to make sense of things - my constant desire to put things in order - to map out where I’ve been and figure out my current trajectory. But 9-11? These words can never mean anything other than a catastrophic change to the order of things.
I remember standing there on the 8th floor of a 60 story Chicago building dumbfounded at what I was seeing. Images of the plane on repeat flying into what was once the tallest building in the world. In less than an hour three planes had crashed into the twin towers and the Pentagon. I watched the second plane live on TV hit the South Tower. I watched live on TV the North Tower collapse. Then the second - it collapsed too.
Order is such a fragile state. The dogma of the latter half of the 20th century tried to instill in me the concept that everything has a place, a sequence, a protocol, a spreadsheet, FAQs, a way things are, a this is just the way it’s done mentality. However my brain couldn’t quite grasp what that was.
My coming out process started to erode this fallacy. 9-11 collapsed it into rubble. Several wars and chaotic elections - some were landslides and some so close that left order hanging by a chad. Chaos was everywhere. Eighteen years later and an ocean full of chaos later I’m still trying to make sense of things. Lately though the questions are much more ethereal. Human nature, my own emotions, grief and loss all contribute to the swirling pandemonium.
I use puzzles to calm my mind when anxiety overwhelms me. There is a great satisfaction when numbers, patterns, mysteries and pieces fall into place. Trivial as they are, they offer a sense of accomplishment. Perhaps I use them as small test cases for the bigger questions in my unordered mind.
But there still remains this question - If order on a grander existential scale is so elusive, why do we continue to chase after it? Why not just come to the conclusion to give in, let chaos reign?
Maybe the direct opposite of Chaos is not Harmony and the counter to Disarray is not Tidiness. Perhaps the grand hero is not Order itself but is in fact - Hope.