Weaving chaos into stories

Jim Esch
3 min readNov 5, 2021

A number of years ago on New Year’s Eve, I found a piece of paper lodged under the front tire of my car. The laser-printed copy was set in Times New Roman, 12 point. It was unsigned. This is what it said:

The world comes at you in sprays of time and space. Globs of objects present themselves to your senses — pin cushions, tapestries, picture frames, guitar strings, light bulbs, pieces of thread, coloring books, garlic bread slices, jimmies, lint balls, cat vomit, snowballs, packing peanuts, grass clippings, ripped magazine pages, drum keys, steel wool pads, faces, eye glasses, hearing aids, prosthetic devices, horse pills, tablespoons, Asian fans, CD jewel cases, twigs, the collected poems of William Carlos Williams, dung, melted ice cream, cracked piggy banks, overdrawn checks, hockey pucks, prom queen tiaras, cigar stubs, bicycle spokes, Polaroid film, Sega cartridges, pipe fittings, sponges, the Holy Bible, palm slaps, cock blocks, purring car engines, a model home, a preying mantis, a horse chestnut on the hood of your car, pink duck lips, conch shells, a pierced ear lobe, kosher salt, a boot filled with sand.

The colliding perceptions impose themselves into molecular chains of memory. And I — who most days would prefer to be in hibernation ensconced in a comforter beside a hot radiator and a window with a view of the city skyline— am unwilling to receive them, yet unable to resist. The perceptions keep spilling and spreading and infecting the mind, each spray splashing a memory, recalling a vague story I think I’ve read before.

When we try to reject the cluttered flood the perceptions have a way of imprisoning, of assembling themselves into sinuous, inescapable mazes. We grow fearful and lose our grip on sanity. When we try to accept them, they can lacerate the skin and rattle the skull — our brains clotting, bruised with confused thoughts, like footnotes to the chaotic mess.

The distance between sanctity and insanity is measured by the degree to which we can selectively assemble the barrage into coherent patterns so as to part ways from the chaos (temporarily), like drawing a boundary line or sacred circle. You can’t deny chaos, really. Give it a role to play in your life, a space to twirl and freak out, while you make your exits and entrances, your dance moves across the stage.

The stories we tell ourselves and others are your bulwark against the storm. Keep weaving stories. Keep dreaming out of chaos into the now, the pivot point, the…


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