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Seven Life Lessons of Chaos: Timeless Wisdom from the Science of Change Hardcover – January 6, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (January 6, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060182466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060182465
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,410,840 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Attempting to extract lessons for daily living from the emerging science of chaos theory, Briggs, a professor of English at Western Connecticut State University, and Peat, a British physicist, have produced an often frustrating, intermittently suggestive guide. Chaos scientists seek hidden patterns underlying apparently random events. By heeding their example, the authors maintain, ordinary folk can learn to appreciate the interconnectedness of all things, to go with the flow of events, to unlock creativity through heightened tolerance for ambiguity and ambivalence, to pay attention to subtlety, to act according to one's internal rhythms. Skipping fluidly from irrational numbers to Zen paradoxes, from Vaclav Havel's notion of "the power of the powerless" to the I Ching to the egalitarian, "self-organizing" interactions of an Ojibway Indian community and Manhattan's food distribution system, the authors use chaos as an overworked metaphor in a barrage of analogies, speculative leaps, platitudes and anecdotes. Their unconvincing manual is riddled with sentences like, "Positive butterfly power involves a recognition that each individual is an indivisible aspect of the whole and that each chaotic moment of the present is a mirror of the chaos of the future." Scores of intriguing photographs (66 b&w; eight pages color), which form an integral part of the book, reinforce points about the dynamics of change and the liberating potential of chaos with images of colliding galaxies, Ice Age cave paintings, a traffic jam, a craggy British coastline, plots of heart rhythms.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

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 disproportionate 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. Patricia Monaghan

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Briggs and Peats accomplish something truly extraordinary.
montaigne
Seven Life Lessons of Chaos is the only book I have ever finished and begun again.
Nicole Henderson (nmhenderso@aol.com)
Whatever you are struggeling with now this book will help you to find a solution.
Nancy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Nicole Henderson (nmhenderso@aol.com) on March 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Seven Life Lessons of Chaos is the only book I have ever finished and begun again. This is not a "how to" book, but a piece of literature -- one that does not end, but continues to begin again. I began this book expecting "lessons" in the ordinary sense. Thinking I would be "shown how to do something," I braced myself for the pointer and the lectern and the maps. A non-scientist (to say the least), my only understanding of chaos was "messy and disordered." But like any good student, I waited for Briggs and Peat to teach me, in an orderly, structured way, their "lessons." What happened, though, was something else entirely. Instead, by using chaos theory as a metaphor, Briggs and Peat offered a series of overlapping and merging lenses through which I began to see the world in new ways. Like a great piece of literature, the words began to fall away and as I glanced to watch them tumble, the world appeared in sometimes fleeting, sometimes sustained glimpses -- a world that is at once more chaotic and more possible to be with. This is not a book that "tells you" how to give up control, but one that offers shifting glances into the relieving realization that you didn't have it in the first place. In the end (which is also the beginning), what remains is an oddity so beautiful you will want to touch it. And when you do, you will realize it is your life.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By B. H. Stewart on June 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
Seven Life Lessons shows us that the control we humans think we have on everything is mostly an illusion. The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. To me this spontenaeity is a wonderful thing. I love the fact that it sometimes rains when the weather bureau has predicted sunny skies--or vice versa. It makes me understand that the universe is magnificent and is beyond control of any kind. I believe there is a line in E. M. Forster's Passage to India when the character Mrs. Moore says about Ganges River: "What a beautiful river! What a terrible river!" She makes this observation right after the calm beauty of the river has exploded with the sudden splash of a crocodile in the middle of the river. What a boring world if everything were predictable and controllable. This book does indeed offer some suggestions on how to use the scientific discoveries about chaos to enrich our lives and to appreciate the complexity and beauty of the planet Earth. I return to it again and again when I'm feeling barren and dry.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By John W. Pollard on April 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book will not change your life - but it will enlighten you to the possibilities of how to view life in the future. This is not eastern mysticism by scientists, but rather a clear statement of how uncertainty is the most certain of all things - we live in a world of opposites and that alone provides limitless opportunity.
You should read this book - just once will be enough to 'get it'.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By montaigne on February 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Briggs and Peats accomplish something truly extraordinary. They make clear to us, with the help of Chaos theory, to what extent our Western worldview dominates and distorts our take on or sense of reality. They trace the history of Western thought from the Renaissance to the present and demonstrate how this mechanistic worldview has led to a severe distortion not only of our own sense of self, but of the true nature of our planet and the all life forms it supports.
Without attempting to replace one belief system with another and without telling us what to do, they leave us with a clear sense that the relativism of the post post-modern world is nothing but a misunderstanding of the nature all worldviews:
They are basically theories, and as such, they are provisional in nature and self-destruct eventually because they get stuck and cannot be updated anymore, no matter how hard we try. We have reached that point - a point that does not signal the end of history but rather the beginning of a new chapter.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Briggs & Peat have done what needed to be done; write a book which connects a powerful scientific theory to reality which does not require mathematics to "get it". That's not to say that the math is not important, but, rather that a physical theory can be significantly grasped and experienced in a relativly non abstract manner. Fractal time, especially, was a tour de force in moving away from linear time perceptions. I didn't think it could ever be done. Well done, John and David! Lawrence Hudetz
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I read this book in one day, and I keep going back to it. It changes the way you look at everything: your relationships, your job, your community... It's like a cross between The Artist's Way, Flow, and the Tao Te Ching. It is truly amazing!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. Crowther on February 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
I absolutely enjoyed this book and found it completely relevant to my life. I have been quoting it since I read it!
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Joel Brown on January 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
Here we get a better glimpse at infinity, the living interconnectedness of our universe, and chaos theory. Entering into this chaos we have creative moments. The authors take an in depth look at the creative mind. The problem with our modern western minds is that they are dualistic and mechanistic. "Lo! Men have become tools of their tools!" With chaos comes wholeness, and we need not restrict things into dualities and put power above all weaker things. We need see that systems are complex and simplistic at the same time through chaos, and that every action is connected to everything. 'The Butterfly Effect' The Earth, let's call her Gaia, is a living ecosystem and organism. We can look at the cell as its microcosm. Because of missing information, we never fully understand things, and therefore should not mechanise them to our satisfaction. We shouldn' t view everything as linear. This includes time. Those moments where time stands still---they explore the realms of the possibility of fractal time planes, as opposed to a mere irreversable arrow. They want the mystery of contemplating the great unknown restored in our minds. This book will definitely supply you with a new mind expanding outlook and perspective on the world in which you live.
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