Chaos Theory

retired UWEC professor’s book explores the role of chance in our lives

Emily Albrent, photos by Andrea Paulseth

THURSTON’S THEORY. Author and retired professor John Thurston details his theory of life in a new book.
THURSTON’S THEORY. Author and retired professor John Thurston details his
theory of life in a new book.

One small, seemingly insignificant action could change your life forever. For example, you leave your house a little later than usual for work and drive by a car accident. You get that weird feeling that if you would have left on time, maybe, just maybe, that could have been you.

John Thurston, a professor emeritus of psychology at UW-Eau Claire, recently authored The Thurstonian Theory of Life, a book that explores the dimensions of how life events are decided by chance, how we have little control over what happens to us, and how we are constantly changing. The person you were at the start of this story is not the same person that you are right now. The words you have read have changed your life, whether you realized it or not.

“The past cannot be relived, you can’t do anything about that, nor can you predict the future. All you have going for you is the ‘now,’ and you should appreciate the ‘now’ even though you don’t understand how you got there, because that’s impossible in my view.” – John Thurston, author and emeritus professor of psychology, on the viewpoint espoused in his new book, The Thurstonian Theory of Life

Thurston said he does not know what specific moment he came to this theory, but he does know that other theories are too simplistic. “They don’t take into consideration chance and how people are so incredibly different from one another … either chance events that you don’t know about, chance events that happen to other people that have impact upon you – it’s incredibly complicated,” Thurston said.

Thurston said he could not have completed his book without his editor, Jennifer Geiss. She assisted him with this project for the past year, helping transcribe, edit, and self-publish the book through Dog Ear Publishing. She even provided her own artwork for the book’s cover.

Geiss says that, true to Thurstonian Theory, she encountered Thurston’s request for help by chance. “I just happened upon a Craigslist posting that he had a friend put up looking for someone to transcribe his book and work on a project, and it had only been online for 15 minutes, and it was in a section that a I never look at, under ‘gigs,’ ” Geiss said.

Geiss said this has been one of the most fun projects she has worked on. “He has such a dynamic personality, and the book itself is challenging because of the way it makes you think about Chaos Theory and how chance plays a role in life in general. You can have the best made plans ahead of you, but stuff happens,” Geiss said.

Not everyone will agree on Thurston’s theory of life, but Geiss said if more people thought about life as a ripple effect – where one’s actions can affect someone else’s life (and vice versa) – we might all be a little more considerate in how we treat others. “Better yourself, learn about yourself, challenge yourself, do nice things for others, be a kind person,” Geiss said. “It’s easy to make assumptions, but when it comes to looking outside that, that ability to empathize alone is huge. He has really pushed that big time in this book.”

The first half of the book delves deep into the Thurstonian Theory itself, and the last half includes a section called “The Anatomy of a Rape.” Thurston said he wanted to choose a topic that would really challenge the reader. He wanted the reader to have an opportunity to apply his theory with a situation that’s prevalent but hardly ever talked about. “It’s a horrible thing, for the victim most assuredly, but people tend to water it down or avoid it, they don’t like to talk about that, and of course the rape victims don’t like to talk about that,” Thurston said. “I hope it encourages people to talk about it and get it more out in the open.”

The Thurstonian Theory of Life is filled with research, examples, challenging content, and ways to better your life. It challenges religion and the way you think of your everyday actions. Thurston said he hopes his readers take away a sense of appreciation for their own circumstances.

“The past cannot be relived, you can’t do anything about that, nor can you predict the future,” Thurston said. “All you have going for you is the ‘now,’ and you should appreciate the ‘now’ even though you don’t understand how you got there, because that’s impossible in my view.”

The Thurstonian Theory of Life by John Thurston is available at all major online book retailers as well as at The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire.

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