The presence of entropy

Life is an all-consuming project. If left unattended, it follows a random path of inertia and ends up in an entropic state of disarray.

Entropy is the measure of disorder in any system. An influx of energy is required to either decrease the entropy or keep it at a constant level. A very simple example is to ignore housework for a week. Clean nothing. Put nothing away. At the end of that week, take a look at the disorder of your home. That’s entropy.

Another example of entropy is the demise of a living creature. Because that creature is no longer able to take in energy, its physical system falls to disarray and decay. This disarray and decay, however, feed another living system (the earth and all its microbial beings and insects that feast upon corpses).

But a messy living room and a corpse are not the only form of entropy our world. There is also this odd little notion of informational entropy – that the messages received in language have a fair amount of predictability and, therefore, unpredictability. Other entropies include conditional entropy, differential entropy, the arrow-of-time entropy, joint entropy, and negentropy (the entropy that a living system exports to keep its own entropy low – I kind of think of this as our tendency to bury our trash and waste in landfills or fire it into outer space – think about that one coming back to haunt us in about 20 years . . . as the interstellar trash can revolves in space, it attracts all sorts of debris and becomes a fiery asteroid the size of Texas. Too heavy to sustain its orbit, it falls through our atmosphere and lands in . . . okay, now I have to write a book about that).

I’ve perused the scientific literature (i.e., Wikipedia) on entropy and have yet to discover any definition for the process where people increase their energy in an aspect of their lives yet end up in an entropic mess anyway. In other words, they put a lot of energy into screwing up. Teenagers are famous for this. Then, there are others who put their energy into EVERTHING they come across in life. This author is guilty of that one. Here’s the scenario: Ideas like that lame book I describe above capture my attention so I spend oodles of energy working on it, but then notice that my job, sleep, tennis, other writing (re: blog), school, relationships are starting to lose their cohesiveness and entropy begins nibbling at their borders threatening to send those life activities into shambles. So I abandon my book and scoot over to taking care of them. I find out, of course, that there is not enough time in one day to pay sufficient attention to all of them so sacrifices have to be made. Housework was the first one to bite the dust.

The point of this blog is that I have to choose where and when I spend my energy and decide what might have to fall prey to entropy so that I take the best care of my life. I default to what feels good. It feels good to have a stable job and a roof over my head. It feels good to have a financial life that might actually see me into retirement. It feels good to whack tennis balls and exercise (I want to hit retirement vertically not horizontally). It feels good to pursue my studies at Loyola. It feels good to be writing this blog. It feels good to have nurturing relationships.

I hope it feels good for you, too.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

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2 Responses to “The presence of entropy”

  1. holessence Says:

    Interstellar trash – yes, you do need to write a book about that. And no matter how you choose to present it (non-fiction — just the facts ma’am), or fiction — suspense/thriller) — it will grab our attention and cause us to think!

  2. Barbara Kass Says:

    Now you’ve gone and made me start thinking like a trash can in space, Laurie. Not only does it become a sentient being, but the little space creatures and debris that attach to it are sentient as well. They have marvelous conversations about where they have been. Not all of them are from Earth. See what you started!!???

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