Why We Like Order In Our Life

Why We Like Order In Our Life

“Moth and rust doth corrupt.” The nature of things to disintegrate, to devolve into chaos, has long been observed. Yet order, pattern, and structure are everywhere we look. Spider webs. Trees. Streets. Books. Time would destroy all of these, yet they persist. How is this possible? It takes work to create these, and work requires energy; that energy comes from the sun. (It is more complicated than that; it involves entropy, too.)

The majority of this complexity is found in living creatures. Certainly, there is order to be found in the non-living world. Materials aggregate together through mechanical and chemical processes, creating salt flats, mineral deposits, and oceans. Half-fill a jar with sand and pebbles, shake for a while, and the largest pebbles will be at the top, with the finest sand grains at the bottom. Voilà! You have ordered the contents.

But the order found in and created by life goes far beyond that. Shaking the chemical constituents of a sunflower does not create one, so it follows that life is, amongst other things, an order-creating phenomenon.

That means that humans have an innate drive to orderliness, and we can see that in our everyday existence. Just think of the order inherent in arranging books by subject or (ugh) by color; collections of fiesta ware, stamps or sneakers; Nash terraces; making plans; the legal system and stare decisis.

So next time you have to clean house or balance your checking account, feel the pleasure of creating order in the world.

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