Chaos

Some months ago, one of my former students in Damascus reminded me of a discussion we once had when I was teaching him English. He had tried to convince me that I was mispronouncing “chaos” because all the words he knew that started with “ch” had a “soft” start, like “church” and “chimney.”
In my letter back to him, I reminded him that English can be such a complicated language because it is the child of many many fathers, with all the problems of its mother’s complex relationships.
I probably called it a “bastard” language back then, with all the wryness of someone who had herself only recently learned of the depths such a status could indicate: a chasm between self and family, between self and community.
 
Chaos comes to English from Latin, but it is a bastard in itself, coming into Latin from Greek. It comes into English from the Vulgate where it was the word for the vast open unformed emptiness that preceded the seven days of creation.

Chaos stands against cosmos 
As bastard stands against family
As order stands against disorder
Ahh — but think!
Think of all the creative potential
Think of what happens outside the walls
There in the borderlands
Lies all the possibilities for change and growth
Let me, O Lord,
Be the bastard
Who finds how chaos
May yet change
Th’imperfect order
Of the church.
What a funny chaotic language English really is: not empty at all, but very disordered 🙂
Ahhhh – the possibilites