His fearful symmetry

My son still likes to line up objects, every now and then. When he was around two he used to spend an hour or so lining up his toys into artful little patterns; his “tracks”  would stretch from the kitchen to his room (first tinker toys arranged in order, then bristle blocks, then wooden blocks, then finally the Star Wars Galactic Heroes). Just recently he arranged his collection of 300+ Gogos into a color wheel pattern. When I showed him what he had created, and how close he got to the order of the classic color wheel, he kind of shrugged his shoulders and said, “Oh, cool. Yeah. I like patterns. Especially color patterns.”

He’s not only hyper-focused on strict patterns, he also (as I mentioned here) likes to create scenes. Both chaos and order seem to soothe him, and I wonder if it’s not something deep in our biology that makes us find peace in working with our hands and minds in unity. Think of the perfect symmetry of a lotus blossom or a butterfly’s wings. Think of the sort of zen that geometry brings to a well-built building or home. Think of how we inadvertantly shudder when we first see an animal (whether it’s a dog, a cat, or a human) who has lost an eye. We’re bound and born into symmetrical patterns. These deeply ingrained laws guide us through our entire existence. Ever read a book that seemed to just end abruptly? Or maybe it just petered out at the end, maybe in weak contrast to its particularly strong ending. I just finished a book that could be described just that way, and when I finished it I felt a bit cheated. It felt fractured and uneven. We  humans seem to like things round and whole. We line up the things that we love so that we can take stock of them, catalog them, and immerse ourselves in them. It’s all  a sort of elegant form of mathematics; even those of us who failed Algebra II are so deeply ingrained with a sort of biochemical need for gorgeous order.

Right this minute I’m looking at a row of miniature Star Wars figures that Xander lined up before he fell asleep. He hasn’t been feeling well this morning, but even in his feverish state he felt like “lining some guys up”. Maybe I’ll take advantage of the rare nap that he’s taking and rearrange the books on their shelves.

***The photo is from the beautiful Etsy seller Pocus Hocus. Am in love with these breathtakingly soft works of art.

**…and I know I’m taking a bit of a liberty in my definition of symmetry. While a pattern is not a perfect, evenly sided, symmetrical event, it seemed to mesh and make sense, you know? Order comes in many forms, I guess.


10 thoughts on “His fearful symmetry

  1. That’s a gorgeous photo!

    There’s so much in the outside world that’s beyond our control, I definitely understand the desire to shape what is easily controlled. I appreciate that Li’l D responds to being overwhelmed by saying “Baby!” and climbing up into my arms to be held like he was when he was much littler. I can see him following Xander’s path, though; he’s so careful and precise about things! (Monday’s entry, which I’ve kept failing to post for weeks now, is actually–roughly–about this.)

    I hope Xander feels better in no time, assuming he wasn’t already doing better by the time he awakened from his nap!

  2. It’s kind of beautifully heartbreaking, isn’t it? Even when they’re still so tiny, sometimes they want to be the littlest of babies again. I don’t think we outgrow that!

  3. Thank you for sharing this passage. It’s a vignette of Xander’s day that plays like movie scene and reads like a book. You have a great talent for words. Thank you for featuring my photo, I love how beautifully it fits your story. It’s an honor and I truly appreciate it.

    I hope little Xander is feeling better.

"... all my lovers were there with me, all my past and futures."

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