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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Portals of Chaos: A New Year’s Reflection

How to ward off the flood.

In one of his lectures, Jordan B. Peterson characterizes a stack of unpaid bills as a “portal” to Hell. Chaos can pour through this wormhole into your world and eventually flood your life. Debt, interest charges, and late fees can rise and rise and eventually overwhelm you.

Vague awareness of this can make you want to avoid thinking about or even looking at the stack, because it makes you anxious. But ultimately, this strategy generates more anxiety than it prevents as you find yourself mired in the chaos you refused to face.

Closing the Portal

As I did, I was startled by maniacal laughter.

The lasting way to address that anxiety is to confront it by getting at its source. Pick up one of the bills and pay the minimum. That shrinks a hole in the dam protecting your little world of order from the vast ocean of chaos surrounding it. It makes the portal a little less frightening and makes you feel a little stronger and more capable, such that you are more likely to keep working at it until the hole is patched up completely.

A light on my car’s dashboard has been warning me that my tire pressure is low. I’ve been procrastinating adding air to my tires for the same reason their pressure is low in the first place: the cold winter weather.

But this morning, I thought of that warning light as a chink in the dam holding back the floodwaters of chaos. What if, because of the low pressure, a tire blew out while I was driving? What if it happened when I was going 70 mph on the freeway? What if my 5-year-old daughter was in the backseat and somebody was tailgating me at the time?

That would be the dam bursting. That would be chaos inundating my life. The chaos might swallow me whole. Or it might sweep my little girl away, and then permanently engulf my mind.

So this morning, when I once again saw the warning light, I decided to close that tiny chaos portal. I drove to the nearest gas station, stopped being such a wimp, braved the cold, and refilled the tires.

A Brush with Chaos

As I did, I was startled by maniacal laughter.

I didn’t look around to see who was cackling, not wanting to draw his attention.

There but for the grace of God — and the wisdom and will of Man — go I.

It struck me, that here was a mind sunk in chaos: a soul in Hell. The man’s disorder might have been caused by an injury or by genetics. But it’s also quite possible that, in the past, he was a sane man who ignored too many chaos-admitting portals in his life for too long. Eventually, a big dam broke, or several small ones in succession. Overwhelmed by personal catastrophe, he suffered a nervous breakdown and a severance from reality. The flooding of chaos was so pervasive that it invaded his mind, and he became immersed in the kind of madness that might have afflicted me if I lost my daughter due to my own stubborn negligence.

There but for the grace of God — and the wisdom and will of Man — go I.

Portals of Life

I finished my work on the tires, got back into my car with its heated seats, drove off, and saw the warning light disappear. Portal closed. A miniature mission accomplished in the eternal campaign for life and order, against suffering and chaos.

Feeling safer and stronger, I headed into the office to write this essay. I hope it will serve as a little portal through which order — understanding and inspiration for creative action — can flow into the lives of a few. And now that I’m done, it’s time to go be with my family.

Happy New Year, dear reader. In 2018, may we all heroically confront chaos and create new order, love, and life. And don’t forget to check your tire pressure.

  • Dan Sanchez is an essayist, editor, and educator. His primary topics are liberty, economics, and educational philosophy. He is the Director of Content at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and the editor-in-chief of He created the Hazlitt Project at FEE, launched the Mises Academy at the Mises Institute, and taught writing for Praxis. He has written hundreds of essays for venues including (see his author archive),,, and The Objective Standard. Follow him on Twitter and Substack.