The Problem With Trouble

By Art Rosengarten

“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order” wrote the Swiss founder of Analytical Psychology, C. G. Jung.  Nowhere is this irony more self-evident than in the everyday lives of ordinary people.


No matter how skilled we’ve grown in plugging the holes, the illusion of control jumps back like a yapping Schnauzer and bites us in the tightened buttocks of “business as usual.”  The world of conventional reality is a manufactured cosmos of deluded chaos; it scratches its dense skull in search of the only remedy it knows: the pursuit of perfection.


THAT SLOW LEAKING TIRE, running nylon, or bad-hair day, the ‘B’ you thought an ‘A’,  lone sour grape, or surcharge hidden in the fine print, ALL conspire to dissolve the joy you’ve envisioned in a flawless day. The state of perfection is outright libel though no laws protect us from its rampages. The impeccable is “oh so peccable,” the impeachable so easily impeached!


Flawlessness is itself a flawed vision (of perfection). To the contrary, “flawfulness” is perfection’s secret virtue—rendering the strange construction of “perfection” virtually null and void.  The odd is, in effect, the beautiful.  It’s the anomaly that generates “brilliance” in a quartz crystal–that which is most different, most natural, striking and unique, or more correctly, most “FLAWED” (if by that we mean “least commonplace”)–which makes for a thing’s true beauty and character. We might say its “atypicality.”


Naturally, this is not an indistinct, uniform, “flawfullness” which might then be “reproduced to perfection.”  Nice try. The Pet Rock only works once! And one must never attempt to redo the undone. Certainly this brought the death knell to rock n’ roll in the disco seventies.


Even the gods and goddesses sprout an occasional blemish, and the real deal is closer to the trashed “Out-Takes” in the film editor’s dustbin than the perfect teeth made from plaster of Paris implants in the Hollywood state of the mind. Sacred mistakes (because nature made them as they are) capture the trouble we’d rather not know we have.  Here we “make” the boat we’d actually be better off “missing.” The aftermath isn’t pretty or inspiring. Culture dies another vital strand each repeat performance for which the great monolith is reflexively imitated.  The perfect game every day. Desperately, though blindly, we recalibrate our slipping ‘predictometers’ hoping to lock-on to the emerging assets of the best case scenarios casted in our castles-in-the-sand.


Dying modernists that we are, we sorely regret the inconvenience, dissolution, and shifting of gears.  IT was our mother and hence we remain attached to predictable outcomes like goat cheese on gourmet pizza. When (mis)constructions of the “perfect picture” are not matched in actuality, when life takes on that “almost BUT not quite” quality, we filter away to masturbatory memories (of perfection tales) before the dreaded real reality returns. Go away! We want the Hollywood moment-–the perfect teeth and triumphant skies. “Jesus, it’s good.”


As such the cosmos appears contained in our small-mindedness.  Briefly, life feels unwrinkled and cooperative.  Uncle Gino gets a second opinion. And a secret order may now be plucked away from one’s vortex of disturbance. Good news! It bears no abeyance whatsoever to the Tawainese clocks and cashiers of the conventional order. We must respond now as artists, not escape artists. We must now use natural materials with no mention of perfection.


This new strategy goes to the heart of what I fondly call “the problem with trouble.” 
Rebounding too quickly denies us a rare opportunity— the wisdom of natural chaos. As the commentary to the third line of “Difficulty at the Beginning” (in the Chinese Book of Changes) states:


If a man tries to hunt in a strange forest and has no guide, he loses his way. When he finds himself in difficulties he must not try to steal out of them unthinkingly and without guidance.


The hexagram further tells us:


“Fate cannot be duped; premature effort, without the necessary guidance, ends in failure and disgrace.”


The problem with trouble is that we are a mad, trouble-fixing people. We fix to fix (and function to function) and miss entirely the secret order that an honest barrel of trouble provides us.  The sages called this barrel ‘Fate”:


“It is only a matter of time before we meet it.  Fate is not antagonistic or vindictive; it is there to teach us, in an impersonal way, that the goal may not be gained through false means.”


Fate is no way out of trouble but, paradoxically, into it.  Thankfully, “fate-born-of-trouble” stymies our misguided pursuit of perfection—and returns us to what matters, ourselves.



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