Our Need for Order and Meaning

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I live on the road. Out in nature. From campground to campground. It is visually random. Audibly random. Yes, there is a rhythm here. But you have to listen for it. Therefore, I wonder, if we don’t see it, how deep is our need to place it all in a pattern?

I was out walking my dogs the other day as I passed a woman standing in an empty campsite. It looked to me as if she were picking up rocks. But I did not look closely.

Later that evening, as I was, yet again, walking the dogs, I saw police cars. Quite a few of them, on the other end of the campground. On the return round of the walk I discovered her story, sort of. This woman was lost in San Diego. A 3-4 hour drive away from where we are camped in the high desert.  They had been searching for her for 3 weeks. She had Alzheimer’s. How she got here was a mystery.

But here she was. Collecting rocks.

As I passed the spot the next day, I took a closer look. On the picnic table, she had organized rocks, twigs, raven feathers, and even a silver earring she had found. All in order. All classified by the thoughts and patterns in her head.

We are the pattern seekers of all the species. Humans look for order, patterns, meaning, in all things. I saw that in this older woman. She didn’t know where she was, she may not have known who she was, but here she was, making patterns, making order. I wonder what she got from it. Did she feel safer with order? Did she find meaning with the patterns and classification? Was it a comfort or a drive?

My guess is that it was both. We feel comfort with order. It helps define what things mean. Puts things into place and perspective. And that helps us to know who we are in relation to this world.