A fractal is mathematical. A fractal is a never-ending pattern. Both of these things frighten me.
To be infinitely complex, to be on continual loop no matter how the scale changes, is the antithesis of survival. If I cannot create an alternate pattern, if I cannot escape the magnification of dehumanization, is the creation of an identity possible? Is a fractal an imposed language, the fixed law of the land?
We can zoom in forever.
In nature, we see this in trees, river, blood vessels. In math, we see this in the Mandelbrot Set. A simple equation gets calculated and input over and over again. Simplicity births complexity. The pattern keeps going until we do not see the clarity. We only see the monster that is created from this, a fractal monster of branch branch branch tree.
The tree is formed, it is made of a million self-similar patterns. I want a different tree, but I can’t even untangle the simplicity. How do I get back to the root? Can I possibly create new language by descending the smallest branches, slithering back to the trunk, prostrating at the root? I can try to find my way back to the beginning. Will I end up in the same pattern despite it all?
Fractals are found in neurons. During childhood, I was obsessed with repetition, the obsessive compulsion to turn the light switch on and off and on and. My neurons were misfiring, building complex neurological monsters from the simplest patterns. Repeating in the wrong way. You don’t have to do that, they told me. Just try and see what happens. I was hopeless against the patterns, winding themselves like gnarled roots at the aperture of my blinking brain. Forging a new language would take the creation of many more simple patterns, ones that would have to go to battle with the fractilian beast that had already staked its claim.
My brother’s email footer quotes Lao Tzu: The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
But what if you are tired? Sometimes sleep is easier than constructing new languages. Sometimes you take one step, and another, and on, and on, but still. You end up taking the same path.
Again: is new language possible?
My father is a fractal.
But what if he was a fraction of a fractal? For example: he is. Because when faced with things outside of his perception, and his experiences, when faced with things outside of his infinite repetition of patterns
He must be
When my younger brother overdosed on drugs in a sort of semi-suicidal idea and then went into a coma and then woke up
Only chicken sandwiches from Island’s (or, really, The Shorebird),
My father said
Let him have however many Shorebirds he wants
The way to make up
Lost hearts could be
Infinite chicken sandwiches if you are a fractal.
How do you forgive if you are a fractal? If you cannot escape Self-Similarity, the infinite, the repetition? You are fixed in your ways, but then you encounter another fractal. Your mind is blown. Your body must figure out how to deal with another’s Self-Similarity. When two simple repetitive patterns form over and over again, what happens when they collide? Now you no longer have your own fractilian monsters to reckon with. Now, you must:
Or, you can always just try to love. That gets messy.
When I got my tattoo my father sort of laughed and told me
You should see all the tattoos in the Inland Empire
The idea of me becoming part of
His sacred ideas of: daughter.
Or did that happen
Many years before
Lay next to me in bed and let his brain tell me stories
And his body (Some Body, Other Body, Other Pattern, Some One Else’s Body – these were some of the stories he told me over time until he admitted
It was me)
Fractured. The. Only. Way.
To form a new reality for me
Was. To. Split.
The only way
Is to tell myself
It can’t all be physical
And let my father watch the scar of that new pattern
Form in his new
But to form a new pattern involves
A new way of seeing
For the elderly
Which can be so difficult
A spiral is a form of fractal, the combination of expansion and rotation. The same patterns over and over again to create shells, hurricanes, galaxies. When two spirals interact, do they continue to go inward? For example: two galaxies collide. For example: two shells rub against one another in the sand. For example: two fists curl inward like fronds, but brush against one another. And what if a branching pattern pokes and prods at a spiral? Is there any type of interaction or does the individual pattern get internalized so that it is so strong in its simplicity, it can keep existing no matter what external Other is imposed upon it? We both believe in our own patterns so strongly, that we cannot possibly allow the input of a different equation.
If this is true, I see very little meaning in the world.
But I find hope in the fact that maybe there must be scars. Maybe a bruise, an upset in the pattern. When two patterns collide, forgiveness could be a scar. It could be so bright that we cannot even see it amongst the repetition. A scar could be swallowed up in the limited spatial perception of our vision. But I take solace in knowing: it survives. Alternatively: topological mixing could happen. Eventually, patterns become so expansive and reaching that they must overlap with another’s. It is inevitable. It is messy.
The Sierpinski Triangle offers guidance in how to create a fractal via the process of removal. You repeatedly remove the inner triangle from the previous generation. More and more holes are formed, creating a complex gap-filled mega-triangle built on the simplest patterns. In one respect, I am comforted by this. No matter how much I take out, there will always be some type of sense made. No matter how many wounds I have, I can still appear to be a functioning being in the world simply because I am still just a repetition of patterns that others can comprehend, can calculate.
In another vein, this deeply disturbs me. If I want to get back to the beginning, if I want to try to remove everything and undo it all in order to form new language, perhaps the deconstruction is hopeless. Perhaps it appears like I can start over, but if everything is just a clearly calculated and dependable pattern, and there is very little room to alter that, no mater how many holes I make, no matter how many triangles I remove, should I even start?
Should I just sleep instead?
And yet. All fractals are on the edge. In other words: there is only a blurred line even as we descend deeper and deeper into the pattern. Fractals make algebraic patterns visible, but the more we zoom in, the more details appear. They demystify the abstract, but also make it more complex. Magnification (and de-magnification) then becomes endless. From this I take comfort: there is beauty in the known because how far it goes is a mystery. Perhaps the language is pre-imposed, but we can magnify and de-magnify at will. We can go on and on and. Or, we can sleep. The repetition will remain there, waiting for us when we wake up. And then we can create havoc.
Even when you think you’ve lost it all, you can remember: you can eventually create a glorious complex monster just by beginning again. Simple bifurcation, branching over and over again at a power of two, will yield spellbinding results. Language is accessible to you, from the beginning, at the root.
The Chaos Theory comes into play: even though our systems are deterministic, long-term prediction is practically impossible. By a simple variation of initial conditions, the outcome can be altered drastically. Scars are never lost, and also, more than that: they matter. This is beautiful, meaningful. Your fractal will never, never exactly resemble mine. Patterns must form around pain, love, hurt, the way the roots of a tree become gnarled and the ground cracks and bubbles at the base. The roots matter. The input of variables matters.
But it is chaos. Not random. On top of it all, there is some sense to be made. I seek this, against my better judgment. I need this.
I think of my co-worker’s dying father
80 something years old
Having to watch his 45 year old son get married
With such joy
And then hear
About his heart breaking
Into so many many pieces
When his wife
Okay, okay, yes
So tired of heart
By now his own wife dead but still
He loves his son
Who takes him to any appointment he needs because the only other alternative is
The way to make up
Time slip-ups and time fuck-ups could be
Finding a pattern
Pointing to a tree and saying
Is something you can count on.
Over and over and.