I have an organizational system that I’m guessing many of you are familiar with. It’s often referred to as organized chaos. I have piles and piles organized throughout my workspace, and to the untrained eye they might just look like piles, but to me it makes complete sense. I have my “deal with right now” pile and my “recycle me” pile. I have a “for Duncan to deal with” pile and a “never look at again but don’t want to throw out” pile. Sometimes the items get moved from pile to pile until they end up in their permanent home (either an actual folder or the recycling bin) and my life feels organized and manageable. Every once in a while I get fed up with the size of the piles, go through them all, and whittle them down to the bare essentials. And then the process starts all over again.
Organized chaos is not a new management system. In fact, this week’s Torah portion, Bereshit, originates this concept. As the Torah begins anew we start with the very act of creation itself. We begin again with our familiar story and move quickly from the days of creation through the narrative of Adam and Eve in the beautiful Garden of Eden to the first time someone challenged God. From there we witness the first explosive sibling rivalry with Cain and Abel. The end then careens us forward in time to the line of Noah.
As the story of creation begins, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was Tohu Va’Vohu.” A modern translation could read this as “organized chaos.” When I read this I always picture God looking around at various piles trying to figure out what goes where. Sort of like the sorcerer in Disney’s Fantasia, I imagine God moving a wand around, organizing the heavens, the earth, the waters, the plants, and the animals and people until they are in just the right place to work together in harmony.
So often we think of God as being this perfect entity who fashions a perfectly deliberate creation with everything in the right place and placed in an orderly fashion, yet here we are reading the first few sentences of our Torah, telling us that even God has piles all around.
This notion of “organized chaos” is comforting to me. It’s a little counterintuitive to think of comfort in chaos, but life is full of chaotic moments. Whether it is my piles all around or running from activity to activity, it’s easy to feel like the world is whizzing by, However, we read Parshat Bereshit this morning and are reminded that from the chaos we create order. Just please excuse the mess.