First comes the question: Why a pattern?
(Every individual snowflake is unique, but each has six sides. Why?)
And then, Why this pattern?
(Why not some with 12 or 13 or 117?)
Then comes the question without the assumption: Is this a pattern?
(There are stripes on a zebra, stripes on a tiger, and stripes on rocks and beaches. Are they connected? Really? How?)
Then comes the trick: These patterns look the same, but are they?
(Ruptures of earth around the San Andreas fault line look exactly like cracks in the paint on a dried window sill. Can you compare them? Beside their apparent similarity to me, are they the same?)
Because sometimes they are, and sometimes they're not, and you have to say how. You have to find a way to say what counts as a pattern, though you're the one who counts, and mostly it comes as a kind of recognition, this and that/this is that/this is like that, that reaction of assent, which is a feeling that sometimes falls apart, sometimes stubbornly repeats itself everywhere. But if you see a pattern and see it everywhere, how is the pattern not a projection of you or something within you (your aesthetic, your longing, you fear), and how would you know?
How would you know?
How we answer that last question is the difference between a science of fractals and conspiracy theories.