Things Fall Apart, and That’s OK Right Now
Entropy may be defined (very) simply this way: everything in the universe tends to become more and more disordered and random, if energy is not expended to bring order. The author James Clear gives an example: if you dump out a 1000 piece puzzle onto a table (as so many of us are doing these days), it would be extremely unlikely that all the pieces would arrange themselves perfectly. Someone (you) has to make order out of chaos to put the puzzle together. And all things, left on their own, fall apart eventually. Homemaker Elise Seyfried gives another example: a bedroom that was cleaned mere MONTHS ago, is now dusty and messy again! She (the homemaker) or, preferably, he (the homemaker’s husband) must do work to keep that bedroom tidy and dust-free!
My growing-up years were spent in “Entropy Central.” Mom and Dad were quite content to let the chips (and dips, and socks, and newspapers) fall where they may. We moved a lot, and each dwelling slid further into decay the longer we lived in it. This was especially noticeable when we owned houses, because we didn’t have to let you inside, but we couldn’t stop you from seeing our yard. I cringe looking at old photos taken of family members standing in the driveway, with the surrounding tangle of weeds and knee-high grass in full view. Had we no shame? Not much, apparently!
It’s too bad that entropy is a real thing, because wouldn’t it be so great if things just remained perfect? Think of the time saved if we never had to shower or brush our teeth! This, by the way, was actually an experiment attempted by all five of my kids during their pre-teen years. “Did you use soap? Did you put any toothpaste on that brush?” were oft-repeated questions I posed to our young scientists. Eventually they turned 13, and suddenly the Never Bathe camp switched sides to the Always Shower for At Least 45 Minutes Every Morning camp. Energy expended, cleanliness restored!
Many of my writer friends are feeling blocked as the pandemic grinds on. A sort of mental entropy is setting in. Good writing habits are getting harder to keep up, given isolation (or too much togetherness with the same few people) plus a dollop of existential dread. Reminders that Isaac Newton invented calculus during a plague only make them feel worse. Two cheering thoughts, dear writer friends: 1) What has calculus ever done for you, anyway? and 2) Old habits die hard, but that includes the good ones! Your writerly routines will re-emerge at some point, and you’ll probably even feel more inspired after this mandatory break.
I think, in this unsettled world, we may need to embrace a little entropy right now. Things might be falling apart, but perhaps we need a collective breather before we start putting it all together again.
10 hours of old Seinfeld episodes will not get our carpets vacuumed. But they just may save our sanity.