I've never believed in fate exactly, in the concept that there is some future destiny that we will someday fulfill, but I do believe that patterns larger than our comprehension emerge from the reality of our complex lives and environments and that we are indelibly contained within them.

There is a branch of applied mathematics called Dynamical Systems Theory that seeks to understand these processes, usually using complex differential equations. But there is a far simpler way to perceive the emergence of patterns within our environment - with our senses.

The flocking of birds follows simple rules. Each individual attempts to 1. stay close enough to their neighbors but 2. stay far enough away from their neighbor to not run into them and 3. to fly in the same general direction as the birds in their immediate vicinity. Albeit limited by these rules, the individually additionally has the agency to fly where it wants. From these competing forces emerges the incredibly complex flocking behavior we see in nature.

(please ignore the awful music)

I'm always stunned by the beauty of these patterns. But what's most interesting to me about them is that they're incredibly hard to model mathematically from the top down - that is to predict what the system will look like at any given point as a whole. However they are quite easy to model from the bottom, treating each bird as a particle in a continually running physics simulation.

I think similarly about our agency within society and our lives. We each exist as independent agents within massive dynamic systems in which we carry out our lives defined by the limits of simple, everyday rules defined by our personal value systems and the expectations of society. We do have agency within these systems, however the scope that we can effect change in our environments is limited by the constraints of the systems in which we operate.

The patterns that emerge carry us through massive collective sweeps and dives. We end up far away from where we started wondering how we've gotten there, carried by the power of the collective groups that we participate in. This isn't fate exactly, but a pattern larger than ourselves that emerges from our interactions with others.

This emergent pattern, this energetic process larger than ourselves, is something that I don't mind calling God. In which I see a sort of greater organization that points to the sublime.

As we are swept along in concert with others, I try to remember that no bird single bird can perceive the incredible beauty created by the entire flock. To them, they are just another bird doing their best to fly along their peers.