Standing Between Law And Chaos

  • Posted on: 20 July 2014
  • By: Shawn DeWolfe

Sixteen years ago, I got two tattoos. One was for law and one was for chaos. We had gone to the Fringe Festival in 1998 and then we went to the charity auction thereafter. Our eyes rolled back in our head and we bought A LOT of stuff. One of the wins was a gift certificate for tattooing at a little place on North Park St. that has since shut down. I picked out the art I wanted done, talked it over, sat in the chair and got each shoulder done and voila! My subjects were the symbol of law and symbol of chaos.

I like the idea of law and chaos as opposed to good and evil. I remember how nature shows like Wild Kingdom used to show predators cast as malevolent creatures who would jump in and pull down a helpless gazelle or similar. When the gazelle got away it was like evil had been averted and good triumphed. What really happened was that a predator inched closer to starvation. Their motivation to feed was driven by hunger, not evil. I really buy into the wolf totem and ethos of wolves: Pack animals. Loyal but vicious. Not wanton-- they will bring down game to survive, they will not bring down an entire herd. If wolves are predators and predators are not evil, then I could have felt comfortable to use the wolf as a symbol of who I am. I only made a wolf symbol for myself recently (see header). Even if I had it available back then, I wanted to have these two symbols to juxtapose each other.

I think there is very little evil in our world, but chaos is a constant tide. Likewise, when I see court decisions, an enactment of law, I don't see that as necessarily good. Law, for me, is about stasis, rules and a prediction of outcomes. Chaos, is about dynamism, change and unpredictable outcomes. Law is about working hard until you die; but chaos is about the potential of winning a lottery. Law is about living within the confines of only what we know and no more; but chaos is about being surprised and the how the unpredictable can leap into our lives.

I was set on the idea of one tattoo of law on my right shoulder, and a tattoo for chaos on my left shoulder. When I decided on the specific symbols of the tattoos, I had to pull the two symbols from different pantheons.

In Michael Moorcock's Elric series, chaos is a major factor. Lord Arioch, a Lord of Chaos and Duke of Hell. Chaos as an artifact of Hell and evil does gel with me. But I like Moorcock's symobol for chaos: an eight pointed star. The Symbol of Chaos is comprised of eight arrows in a radial pattern. In contrast, the symbol of Law is a single upright arrow. It is also called the Arms of Chaos, the Arrows of Chaos, the Chaos Star or the Symbol of Eight. Moorcock contends that he conceived this symbol while writing the first Elric of Melniboné stories in the early 1960s. It was adopted into the pop-cultural mainstream, turning up in such diverse places as modern occult traditions and role-playing games. While I like the idea that any way is possible and that's chaos, I didn't like the idea of the single arrow of law.

In Greg Stafford's Glorantha, the world of Glorantha is a lozenge of existence floating on a black sea of chaos. Chaos abhors the interruption in its complete domination and will seed that world with little works of chaos to forward the cause and world to shatter chaos back into chaos. The rune for chaos is non-starter for me: a circle with horns. But the law rune is what I like: It's a triangle. It's the idealized version of what law is about: your side, their side and the truth. It's simple and different from the eight pointed compass of Moorcock's chaos. That's thing about law and chaos: it's like Batman Vs. The Joker-- they are asymmetrical to each other and that drives their conflict.

I like to think that stand I between law and chaos. Sometimes I foster law by bringing sanity and order. It's not a big surprise that turning chaos into order is one of my traits: I get tapped to solve this; or do that. Yet sometimes I harbinge chaos by doing what I want as opposed what I was supposed to do. That happens. Sometimes it's in response to a raw deal, sometimes it's in response to seeped in frustration. I'm not a marathoner, I'm a sprinter. If I can't finish something realistically quickly, I don't want to do it. That is when I will channel chaos. Chaos is the opportunity for change, to open myself up to let something different to happen. Law is for the opportunity to practice constancy. That's why I meander between law and chaos. I like to be stable but I want to see things change with some frequency.

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Last updated date

Monday, July 21, 2014 - 01:34