Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock print "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" is an archetypal image that Westerners associate with Japan. But, more than a picture of waves threatening to devour fishermen as Mt. Fuji looks on, a closer look illuminates key concepts in chaos theory that Western science did not “discover” until recently while offering timeless lessons for fostering adaptability and growth in turbulence.
Hokusai’s use of fractals in art illustrates how order can emerge through chaos, demonstrating the interconnectedness of seemingly disparate parts of nature, wave, mountain, sky, and man. The waves are turbulent, but have order and self-similarity in their form and with their environment. The closer the zoom, the more similarity emerges. Almost like an analog Mandelbrot set, smaller waves emerge within progressively larger waves, while forming patterns similar to other elements in the environment.
While the clouds are not a main feature of the image, they appear to have shapes like both mountains and clouds. The wave in the foreground has a shape that closely matches that of Mt. Fuji in the background. This reflects the interconnectedness of the ocean, mountain, and sky.
Related: Dynamic Interactive Adaptability: Your guide to promoting growth, resilience, and wellness in turbulent times