Magic and Gewgaws

Anne Zelensky questions the value of embracing chaos based on Tara Hunt’s suggestion. Anne wrote:

I’ve had my arms around chaos for a couple months now, pretty much ever since starting my Web Worker Daily and RedMonk gigs right before entering the holiday and blizzard season as a mother of three poorly disciplined children. I can confirm that there are good reasons people look skeptically at chaos–it’s not all spring flowers and sunny days like you might think from reading some marketing blogs.

In her comments, I wrote:

Chaos is disorder, not a creative platform. Saying things like “embrace chaos” is pure marketing, meant to make people feel that if they run around in circles and flap their arms madly, eventually they’ll fly. They won’t fly: they’ll just hurt their arms, and convince everyone around them that they’re either insane or drunk.

Challenging oneself has nothing to do with chaos, and everything to do with one’s strength of purpose and determination to push our limits in order to be or do better. It is totally incompatible with chaos, which we assume means that the person is supposed to just leap into life and hope to hell it works out.

More than questioning the efficacy of ‘embracing chaos’, I think that Anne’s response is representative of that which we’ll be seeing more of in the the next two years: a questioning of the hype; a pushback at the gewgaw and the magic. When injecting a note of reality, today’s spinner sneers at such as being unimaginative, or even counter-productive. Yet we’ve had six years of government based on a belief in magic and what we have now is a never ending war in Iraq, and globalwarming that has become serious enough that even Exxon and others who originally poo-pooed such as taking notice and giving warnings.

There is magic, but it doesn’t exist in being ignorant, or being sold. It certainly doesn’t exist in ‘embracing chaos’ as a way of soothing your fears at a world gone madly out of control. The magic exists in finding that which is important to you, truly important, and then disregarding those others who try to tell you otherwise:

No, you don’t need a 600.00 cellphone; nor do you need that fourth computer or 18th pair of shoes.

No, you don’t have to attend this event or that, in order to be considered worthy.

No, popularity and authority do not go hand in hand. I think that the UK’s Big Brother show has demonstrated this.

No, there is no land of milk and honey, and the days when all your startup needs is to be featured on Techcrunch are over.

No, Silicon Valley, London, Boston, Sydney, and such are not the centers of the universe. The truly special person wakes up in the morning, looks around them and says, “Wow. I live in a great place”, and then makes it happen.

No, regardless of what Wall Street says, corporations being healthy doesn’t mean the country, or even the world, are healthy. We can’t continue to use corporate health as an effective indicator of overall health.

What is magic? Being informed is magic. Celebrating our uniqueness is magic. Making do with what you have is magic. Spending a whole day just watching the birds and not feeling like you have to weblog about it, or ‘share’ in the experience is magic.

Helping others is good, but doing so quietly, without having to blow one’s horn, now that’s magic.

Rather than embrace chaos, try embracing responsibility. Yeah, that’s a cold dose of mountain spring water, isn’t it?

You won’t find magic at ETech or SxSW, and it won’t be featured at the next Barcamp or other conference. You won’t find magic in a big screen television, at the Apple store, or via some silly furry thing that wiggles its ears. You certainly won’t find it by embracing chaos, getting on the Cluetrain, or one of other seemingly infinite, but infinitely exhausting things shoved at us as essential elements of doing things right.

If you want to do things right, then do them right: do the best you can, with who you are and what you have.

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7 Responses to Magic and Gewgaws

  1. Pam says:

    Shelley, I don’t mean this in a mean way, but having you tell me that I won’t find magic at this place or in that thing seems just as bad to me as having somebody else demand for me to embrace chaos.

    I reserve the right to find my magic wherever and however I may; it could very well be in one of the things you denounce. Everyone has a different path to walk, and some of those paths may be stereotypical, or well-trodden, or may involve changing the world instead of making do with what already exists.

    Thank you for writing on this, it has provoked an interesting thought process for me.

  2. Shelley says:

    I said determine what is important to you. I also said you don’t have to attend these events to be important. If going to these conferences is important to you, then do so; not because it’s the ‘in’ thing to be going, or if you don’t go, you somehow won’t measure up.

    People are selling you stuff. If buying makes you feel good, than buy. However, if you’re only buying because others have told you your self worth is based on what you buy, attend, support, than you have to ask yourself if you really want others to define who and what you are.

  3. Shelley says:

    PS Disagreement isn’t being ‘mean’.

  4. I spend my days trying to beat chaos back into the corner so I can get on with my work. (And I am one of those vaunted creative types, a poet & professor.) The “embrace chaos” meme / tag / cliche reminds me of that old fraud Joseph Campbell, who a couple of decades ago on PBS told us all to “follow our bliss.” Yeah, right off the cliff.

  5. If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.

  6. Peggy says:

    No, you don’t need a 600.00 cellphone

    I’ve been thinking that I do not need a $50.00 cellphone or even cell service. Less is better, at least for me. And getting better all the time.

    This is a test post from “Beanshell Desktop” with a simple example of a text web browser. I wonder if posting a comment will work with it? Your site renders quite nicely, by the way.

    Updated: to fix my typos ..
    and … the Beanshell Desktop simple example browser worked for posting a comment here! (

    Welcome back Shelley. Missed ya!