The comfort in chaos

James Prashant Fonseka
4 min readAug 11, 2019

I’m about to head out on the most adventurous adventure I’ve ever undertaken. To be fair, I’m not actually that adventurous, so this adventure isn’t that adventurous in the scheme of adventurous adventures. But for me, it’s pretty adventurous.

Two friends and I are going to drive a tuk-tuk (‘three-wheeler’ or ‘trishaw’ to Sri Lankans) across India from Kochi to Jaisalmer. I have a sense of where Kochi is but I really have no idea where Jaisalmer is. I tell people it’s in Rajasthan which is factually true but that means nothing to me. I looked on a map recently and noticed it’s close to Pakistan. I hope that’s not a problem as India and Pakistan seem to be having problems right now. I digress.

The adventure I’m about to embark upon is designed to be a mess. We are driving unreliable vehicles designed for short runs about town across an entire subcontinent; clearly, a bad idea. Problems are not a possibility but the probability.

We have little to no plan for where to stay or how to get there. We will break down. We will get stuck. We have a start point, and an end point, and in between is grey. I expect that everything that can go wrong will, and it’s already starting to, and I’m actually rather excited about that.

I was meant to fly this morning to the airport in Kochi. That airport was shut down due to flooding. Never mind that the monsoon rains causing the flooding will almost certainly cause us issues driving our very non-waterproof and non-monsoon ready vehicles across sketchy roads in remote India — right now I just need to get from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Kochi, India, as my team is set to depart in a little over 12 hours.

I think I have a plan now. I will fly into a neighboring city and catch a 5 or so hour cab/Uber. I’ll be a few hours late, but it could be worse. Normally I feel quite calm. Perhaps I could say my life is generally a bit dull, but now I feel quite alive.

I feel comfort in chaos. Do you?

I think I’ve long known this about myself, but the last few days have made it clearer that ever. Looking back, I’ve noticed my tendency to step off paths when I know where they’re going. Linear progressions are boring to me while random walks are fun. Not really knowing how I’m going to get to India, let alone battle monsoons for two weeks, is thrilling in a way that my normal life simply is not. I suppose this is a consequence of my dopamine brain. I don’t think most people are like this, but it’s quite clear that I’m not alone. Who else?

The doctors and lawyers, for the most part, are not like me. If they are, they probably feel a bit restless and unfulfilled. A lawyer I recently met told me that she felt like her life was passing my like a movie; she being the audience, not the agent, of her own life. I can see how I could end up that way. In times of stress, uncertainty, and failure the stable paths have a crisp appeal. But one musn’t forget themself.

I suppose there are many potential paths for those who feel comfort in chaos. Once one identifies that trait in themself, they can either lean in or suppress. Certain forms of mindfulness and withdrawal could lull those restless minds. Perhaps at one point this will be the path I ultimately choose. Perhaps after my trip I will have had more than enough excitement and I’ll want nothing more than my settled urban life. For now a different sort of mindfulness has an appeal.

A different school of mindfulness I’ve been studying promotes acceptance through indulgence and surrender, rather than suppression. I like this as an alternate path for those who feel comfort in chaos. If one likes chaos, seek it. Don’t make it, but find it. There are plenty of people who just don’t want to be bothered. Most people would prefer a job with minimal stress and lead a life with minimal worry. Many think they want to be firefighters but few actually do. The world needs more firefighters.

A caution is that chaos is not an end. Chaos is an opportunity. The appeal in chaos is sorting it. It’s the draw of the anti-entropic principle. As the universe and its energetic states tend towards disorder the human agents who want to shape the world are constantly fighting it.

We are swimming upstream. I think it’s good to enjoy the temporal success but we need not forget the context; what we build will break and what we win we’ll lose. The good for those who comfort in chaos is that there will always be a mess to clean up; that is humanity at its core.