The charisma of disorder

The charisma of disorder

Jessa Crispin on unscience, white lab coats, and the line between things we know and things we can prove:

There are certain things we know, and certain things we can prove. Often the “know” category is presided over by the philosophers and the poets, the witches and the healers. The “proven” is the realm of the white lab coat. It can take centuries to go from “known” to “proven.” Louis Pasteur may have discovered penicillin, but mold has been used to treat infections since the time of the ancient Egyptians. Likewise, the idea of the unconscious — that there were drives completely out of our control, and out of our sphere of awareness, working as the engine behind our behavior — used to be a joke. Now it’s an accepted truth.

For instance:

Jonah Lehrer’s Times article about dreams did not come as an Earth-shocking revelation because it’s something we’ve all kind of known. No one is going to scientifically prove Jung’s theories about dreams, of course, because the theories are bonkers (I say with affection).


Moving from the “known” to the “proven” column can be a little messy. The point of finding proof is to shed light on the idea, and in the case of Freud’s realm, to bring order to the disordered. And yet there’s resistance. There’s a lot of charisma in the disorder.

Ranganathan, David Weinberger explains, expected librarians to have a spiritual bent, using intuition to categorize books. With intuition, he wrote, a person “sees beyond the phenomenal occurrences. He transcends space and time. He sees … the perfect harmony of everything.” As I just sorted through the complete disorder of my own personal library to retrieve that quotation, I know now there’s a certain charisma in my own system of disorder.