Harmony vs. Reality: The Drive of Building Order in Chaos

Why drives some people to find and build harmony whereas most are immune to this tendency? Is there innate harmony in things around us just waiting to be found out? But first things first, what is harmony after all?

What is harmony?

Harmony can be described in a few words as the quality of an entity or idea of being structured, orderly, holding a seemingly unbreakable unity where nothing can be added or extracted. A Bach's fugue is a perfect example of harmony at play: even when multiple components (voices) take part of same entity, the end product is harmonious by all of them acting like an undisposable part of same message. To summarize, the fundamental quality of harmony is integrity and unity of message.

How harmonious is reality?

Looking at the world around us, it is hard to find much harmony outside that created by humans. Reality seems like a canvas of imperfections: from our own physical and intellectual imperfections to societies and nature itself. Nothing seems to be really symmetrical and orderly, except maybe for a fleeting moment after which it goes back to chaos that seems to be the natural state of things.

Aren't mathematical laws real and harmonious, though?

There appears to be a very significant exception to above, proving world to be orderly after all, and that is mathematics. Reality appears governed by mathematical and physical laws that remain constant (thus highly harmonious) regardless of fleeting imperfections they produce. In last 200 years, some humans have been able to elaborate this realm of absolute beauty, using mathematics to expose more and more sides of a reality that seems to be closer to grasp than ever before.

But what is reality after all?

Phenomenal reality

Reality seems to us as something that by definition requires no proof of existence because we our senses dictate its existence. The computer in front of my eyes seems very real! But how can I know I'm not wrong after all?

Consensual reality

Phenomenal reality is demonstrably true and relevant only for the observer. When more and more people merge their phenomenal realities, however, a different level of reality is achieved: that in which reality is proven by common consensus: I know I'm in front of a computer because persons around me observe the same, thus my observations are accurate. But sometimes groups induce themselve into holding blatantly unreal things to be real just for common consensus to be maintained. How real is something we personally do not see?

Systemmatic reality

Yet another level of reality has taken root, the one that desires to explain the world as an integrated system: first through religion then through science. This systematic reality is taken as universally true by its logical and factual credibility, as well as by the beautiful way in which it manages to build harmony in a world that our eyes see as chaotic and haphazard.

But how real is that reality, either?

Whatever we think as real is only real now: from ourselves to our planet and our universe. But how real is now? Us living in fabric of time, our senses are trying to unnaturally stop a neverending flow of being into moments that are ultimately illusion by consensus: laws of physics themselves are only true in our universe and our universe is only true in the moment. Ultimate reality holds no intrinsic substance outside its human observers: nothing exists except at a given time and time only exists to those that are subject to it. Our sciences, created to explore beyond what our senses reach, only make sense within this perceivable false reality that we cannot function without considering it true.

Then why bother with building harmony?

Even if reality may be devoid of substance or harmony, the drive to create them consumes inquiring minds. Data structures and algorithms, both grounded in mathematics, are among the foundations computer science was built on. This human designed world is one designed to be structured at its foundation and highly harmonious. Therefore, our task is to maintain and strengthen that foundation, keeping it clear of any imperfections.

The joy of finding things out

It brought me great joy and endless satisfaction to revisit data structures and algorithms realm and build a structure on it that remains cohesive (following same thinking pattern throughout), stable (thanks to unit/valgrind tests), simple (by doing nothing more than absolutely required) and highly performant (exceeding even STL, as benchmarks show).