Topher Payne: Learning to love the order of a happy home

That’s the problem with order: It isn’t sexy. It’s pleated khakis and blindingly white sneakers. But when chaos is allowed to grow unchecked, you get… Charlie Sheen. Chaos turns gross. Chaos sleeps through lunch. So then Chaos gets replaced by Ashton Kutcher, because we don’t want actual chaos. We want the appearance of chaos, so we can delight in something we think is unpredictable but is actually rigidly controlled by a raven-haired android who stopped aging in 1997.

We confuse order with rigidity, but this is a fallacy. Order merely highlights the beautiful structure that was there all along. Order in no way limits our options, because the sequence can only be observed after the fact.

You ever hear of The Butterfly Effect? In chaos theory, it’s used to explain a sensitivity to initial conditions, resulting in variable effect. On the Serengeti, a butterfly flaps its wings. Which startles a buffalo, causing a stampede, shifting weather patterns, eventually leading to Ashton Kutcher making an awful movie called “The Butterfly Effect” where he loses his legs and goes to prison.

The movie tanks and Ashton Kutcher loses his shot at a legit film career. Which makes him available to do some TV work when Charlie Sheen loses his mind on hookers and tiger blood.

So, when you see Ashton Kutcher on “Two and a Half Men,” know that there’s a smarmy little butterfly responsible for the whole damn thing.

Chaos claims they’re allergic to condoms and gives you chlamydia. Order not only has prophylactics, they’ve got desensitizing lube. Because they think ahead.

Order is treating people with kindness, and empathy, because you inherently know it is right. Chaos is believing a man with a white beard made the world in six days and gave you a book with a list of people to hate. Chaos is willfully ignoring causality, refusing to pay attention.

Chaos is the name we give to any order that scares us.

Because when you pay attention, the beautiful structure of events is staring right at you, begging you to take part. But we hesitate. We can see the step before and the step after, but we fear exploring further, because we know that while the process is endless, the answers will stop at some point. By the time we get to the Serengeti, that butterfly is long gone. He’s off influencing casting decisions elsewhere.

Not being able to see where the cycle begins confuses us. And when answers fail them, the cynics will claim there is no order, it’s all chaos. But those bold enough to look beyond themselves will see the small part they play in a beautiful, extraordinary picture. Some are so awestruck by the structure that they call it design. And they assign a Creator to that design.

Taking order and calling it God may be a flawed paradigm, at least in our imperfect concept of God, but ignoring the evidence and calling it chaos is the truly false construct. It’s shutting off your ears and eyes, your heart, to the never-ending sequence of cause and effect surrounding you.

Order guarantees you have purpose, you have a place. And there’s such security in knowing that if you look around your home, or your life, and see everything in disarray, it isn’t beyond your control. If you want to change, all you have to do is get moving.


Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at