Life's Rich Tapestry
Think about it - all of life is patterns. Yes, you say, well done. That was so abstract it's almost insightful. Now tell us what you're actually trying to say. First off, let me tell you how happy I am to have grabbed your attention, however sarcastic your initial reaction may be. Now let me weave you a picture; and please hold on to your threads, you don't want to get lost.
Our story here begins in a little thing I like to call The Epic Past. Not the Classical Past, not yet. How silly you say, if you want to weave a picture, why not start from the beginning and take a linear approach? But there's no fun in following a chronology if we are going to be talking about patterns anyway. Let us separate the subject and the form.
Yes, the epic past - our journey takes us North, to the mythical lands of the Nordic people. And in walks none other than Beowulf, our epic hero. But Beowulf - however charismatic, wise and strong as he may be - is not particularly complex enough to be intriguing. Call him one-dimensional, and you're not far off the mark. As the hero of the Geats holds his mighty, monster-slaying sword aloft in his powerful grip, one cannot help but stifle a yawn. But then, in walks Grendel, our antihero. Now there can be no doubt that the eighth-to-eleventh-century Beowulf poet would have scoffed at our interest in his monster. Grendel the ugly, the embodiment of pure evil? you can almost hear him saying. What makes him so interesting? But you see, it is not his monster that has walked in. It is the Grendel of John Gardner's 1971 postmodern retelling. Let us call him Grendel 2.0.
Now if you have read Grendel (which I sincerely hope for the sake of clarity that you have), you encounter a unique being simply riddled with dichotomy. Grendel 2.0 is just as rational and human as the people he observes, yet he is irrevocably not one of them, doomed to be an outsider, a narrator both above and below the people. What makes Grendel 2.0 so beautifully sad is his very obsession with patterns. He is certain that reality is chaos, and no true patterns exist in nature. Yet patterns are still reflected upon nature, and brute animals with no rational capabilities of their own are doomed to follow these blindly. Thus, where do these patterns come from? Humans. And what is a marker of human intelligence and dominance over the forces of nature? You guessed it. Patterns.
Now Grendel 2.0 and his mother, though biologically symbiotic beings, are worlds apart in Grendel. Their only difference, the one that brings a chasm between them, is Grendel's capacity for language. And what is language? The base material required to weave together rational thought. Thus, thought is a pattern, a tapestry, and language is your thread. Presto. What delicious irony - Grendel 2.0 is envious of pattern-makers, yet his very introspections are evidence that he too is one of them. But I diverge; and we must move on.
Okay everyone, hands up if you can name another "thread" we encounter in our daily lives. Do I hear correctly? Has someone said sound? Yes, well done. Sound it is. Now if we stretch our imagination and weave together sounds, what is the name of the resulting tapestry? Music. And in the case of human beings, not just ones we generate with our own larynxes. Our ears and brains enable us to be the best imitators of virtually every sound we can hear in nature. If we can't make it, we make an instrument that can. And the most finely tuned ears, the most aurally tuned brains, are composers who produce whole symphonies in the confines of their grey matter. And I'm not simply talking about Mozart and Chopin - modern-day DJs, if they're any good, have the ability to mesh and weave sounds that work together to produce something worthwhile.
What about words? We are taught not to underestimate the power they wield. Words can be used for mundane purposes, basic communication. But the written or spoken word has a power unlike anything else we have talked about - while other patterns lead us to contemplation, perhaps even emotion, words are highly potent building blocks with the power to lead to action. History is filled with speeches, manifestos, and orations so strong that they have defined the entire ideology of people, groups, and perhaps even entire nations, entire epochs. Words can be used for good, to tell people "I Have a Dream" on a hot August day in 1963, or to deliver a macabre prophecy to the Reichstag on a cold January day in 1939. And yes, words can become immortal, they can become lore and mythology. Like Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, they can become champions of their genre, told and retold millennia after the blind bard's bones have become ash and air. Perhaps our exhaustive understanding of our Classical Past comes precisely from our classical ancestors' mastery of words, having produced patterns the likes of Ovid's poetry, Cicero's speeches, Hecataeus' logos, and Euripides' plays, to name a very select few.
If you think about it, anything that makes life meaningful and beautiful is a pattern. Call it art, call it music, call it poetry. Call it a manifesto of sound, call it a symphony of words. Call it whatever you want. That's the beauty of it. Play with the threads around you, make them yours. You do not have access to new building blocks in life, they have all indubitably used before; but any good mathematician will tell you that the combinations you can create are virtually limitless.