Seven Life Lessons of Chaos by John Briggs and
F. David Peat
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Hardcover
224 pages
Harper Collins Publishers
February 1999
ISBN 0-06-018246-6


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The latest book from the authors of Turbulent Mirror


"The best book on chaos yet!"
-Booklist Magazine 1/1/99
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While humans have had to deal with chaos since ancient times, only recently has science recognized it as a fundamental force in the universe.

Chaos theory, originally used to understand the movements that create thunderstorms, raging rivers, and hurricanes, is now being applied to everything from medicine to warfare to social dynamics and theories about how organizations form and change. Chaos is evolving from a scientific theory into a cultural metaphor. As a metaphor it allows us to query some of our most cherished assumptions and encourages us to ask fresh questions about reality.

Our modern society has been obsessed with conquering and scientifically controlling the world around us. However, chaotic, nonlinear systems - such as nature, society, and our individual lives - lie beyond all our attempts to predict, manipulate, and control them. Chaos suggests that instead of resisting life's uncertainties, we should embrace the possibilities they offer.

In this groundbreaking new book, John Briggs and F. David Peat unfold seven lessons for embracing chaos in daily life:

  1. Be Creative: how to engage with chaos to find imaginative new solutions and live more dynamically.
  2. Use Butterfly Power: how to let chaos grow local efforts into global results
  3. Go with the Flow: how to use chaos to work collectively with others
  4. Explore What's Between: how to discover life's rich subtleties and avoid the traps of stereotypes
  5. See the Art of the World: how to appreciate the beauty of life's chaos
  6. Live Within Time: how to utilize time's hidden depths
  7. Rejoin the Whole: how to realize our fractal connectedness to each other and the world.

If you have ever felt your life was out of control and headed towards chaos, science has an important message: Life is chaos, and that's a very exciting thing.


Advance praise for Seven Life Lessons of Chaos

"In their previous work, Turbulent Mirror, the authors gave us one of the best non-technical explanations of chaos and complexity theory. Now they have taken the next step, engaging us in wide-ranging and provocative meditations on chaos. This is an eloquent and utterly delightful book."
-Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics and The Web of Life

"The seed aspects of chaos theory are brilliantly integrated in this book into a broad perspective illuminating the nature of deep creativity. Chaos emerges not as a negative force, but as a perpetual and comprehensive creative process linking all aspects of life. I found it electrifying."
-Suzi Gablik, author of The Reenchantment of Art and Conversations Before the End of Time

"John Briggs and F. David Peat are not so much as authors as Zen wizards. As they dart and dance across the stage of their books, butterflies and burbling brooks spring from their fingertips, flow together to become a tumult of clouds at sunset, which (after a moment) we're stunned to recognize as the birth of a galaxy in deep space. When the performance is over, we wonder, 'How on earth did they do that'-and find that, after all, we've somehow caught the knack and are doing it ourselves!
-Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael

"As in their previous work, The Turbulent Mirror, Drs. Peat and Briggs offer us a profound understanding of the creative potential in the individual and the collective psyche. An excellent book."
-Michael Conforti, Ph.D, Jungian analyst, Director of Assisi Conferences

"If you want to know how you can apply the butterfly effect to change everything from your local surroundings to the global ecology, or set up your own feedback loop to improve everything from your career to your relationships, this is a wonderful book to guide you there. The new motto shall be 'better living through chaos.'"
-Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of Why People Believe Weird Things

"Makes chaos not only understandable but actually usable. These seven lessons are worth taking-and taking to heart."
-Ervin Lazlo, author of The Whispering Pond

"This book makes science relevant to everyday life, and brings quality, wholeness and imagination into the scientific conversation"
-Satish Kumar, Programme Director, Schumacher College

"Many of us got into chaos theory because it afforded a new scientific metamodelling and research strategy for investigating more realistic complex processes in nature. As we got involved with it, we became aware of its potential to overflow its mathematical and scientific roots, to join myth, mysticism, poetry, literature, art, religion, and philosophy in providing an interconnected view of the universe, our world, our society, and our selves. It empowered the insights of those domains with a unifying view and discourse that was not totalizing. Briggs and Peat do a wonderful and exciting job in their new book exploring this expansion of the chaos metaphor. I especially loved their attitude toward creativity: "Chaos suggests that instead of resisting life's uncertainties, we should embrace them. . . Painters, poets, and musicians have long known that creativity blossoms when they are participating in chaos." They also point out that this is true of cultural and social institutions; that the liberation of the human spirit depends this flow. This book should help liberate us from the constraints of modern and postmodern society."
-Frederick David Abraham, senior author of A Visual Introduction to Dynamical Systems Theory for Psychology & Chaos Theory in Psychology

"There would have been no Jurassic Park without it. There is a perfume named after it. It is chaos, whose theory is the hottest one in science since relativity. The most powerful part of its allure is the relevance of chaos theory to human life struggles, yet no earlier book more than alluded to that connection. Briggs and Peat, whose Turbulent Mirror (1990) is one of the best popular books on the science of chaos (Briggs also wrote the lavish Fractals (1992) on chaos art), now give us a book that introduces the major ideas of chaos and shows how they can be used metaphorically. For instance, sensitive dependence upon initial conditions, or the butterfly effect, is the phenomenon of a tiny action, when amplified throughout a system, having unexpectedly disporportionate effects. (It is called butterfly after the chaos theory canard that a butterfly flapping its wings in China can cause a thunderstorm--or hurricane--in New York.) Apply this to politics, say, and apparently small initiatives can produce enormous changes. Briggs and Peat are careful to differentiate between scientific fact and metaphor, unlike some popular but often inaccurate self-help writers. The combination of factual exactitude and imaginative application makes this the best book on chaos yet."
-Booklist Magazine, 1/1/99


Seven Life Lessons of Chaos

Table of Contents:

Before Words: The Metaphor of Chaos Theory
Lesson 1: Being Creative
Lesson 2: Using Butterfly Power
Lesson 3: Going with the Flow
Lesson 4: Exploring What's Between
Lesson 5: Seeing the Art of the World
Lesson 6: Living within Time
Lesson 7: Rejoining the Whole
After Words: Lesson 7.1325...



Other books by
John Briggs
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About the Authors:

John Briggs's authored and coauthored books include: Metaphor: The Logic of Poetry, Pace University Press, 1990; Fire in the Crucible, The Alchemy of Creative Genius, St. Martin's Press, 1988; Fractals: The Patterns of Chaos, Simon & Schuster, 1992; Turbulent Mirror, Harper Collins, 1990, and Seven Life Lessons of Chaos, both with David Peat.

Briggs is a CSU Distinguished Professor at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. He recieved his doctorate in Aesthetics from Union Institute. He received his MA in English from NYU, and his BA from Wesleyan University.

He has published fiction and poetry in The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Northwest Review, New Novel Review and other literary magazines. He is Senior Editor for the award-winning literary magazine, Connecticut Review.

He has been a Selectman in his Massachusetts hilltown of Granville and a town police officer.

Contact John Briggs



F. David Peat's Homepage

The writings, ideas and books of well-known author/physicist F. David Peat


David Peat was born in Liverpool, England and studied at Liverpool University. In the mid-sixties he moved to Canada where he carried out research at Queens University and the National Research Council of Canada.

His interest in fundamental questions in theoretical physics took him to England where he spent a sabbatical year with Roger Penrose and David Bohm. Back in Canada his collaboration with Bohm continued and together they wrote Science, Order and Creativity. In addition to his researches in physics, Peat has been looking into the connection between mind and matter, the way creativity emerges from the body as well as in Jungian psychology.

While in Canada Peat also organized a number of talking circles with Native American Elders and Western Scientists. More recently he has been holding meetings with artists and musicians. All these discussions focus upon the various ways in which we chose to construct the reality around us and organize our society and ourselves. In 1994 Peat moved to Italy and he lives in a mediaeval hill top village in Tuscany.

Many of his interests found their way into Seven Life Lessons of Chaos. With his colleague, John Briggs, Peat had earlier written The Looking Glass Universe, a book that explored the leading edge issues in the new sciences. They then collaborated on Turbulent Mirror, one of the first popular books to explore the new science of Chaos Theory. For their third collaboration John Briggs stayed with Peat in Tuscany and together they walked around the village, and into the surrounding hills, while talking about the new book they would write together. Since the publication of Turbulent Mirror, several other books had appeared on Chaos Theory. Their new book, while explaining the science of chaos, would be more about the way these ideas and metaphors impact our lives and the lessons we can learn from them. The book asks how we can live more authentically within society; how we can relate more fully to the natural world and explore the creative potential within each one of us. The essence of the book lies in its exploration of interconnectedness and the new freedoms we can explore in the holistic world of chaos.

Contact F. David Peat



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