Entropy – 5. Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society. (American Heritage Dictionary)
Entropy isn’t just a scientific concept. It’s everywhere you look. Relationships have entropy. To maintain a marriage you have to put energy into it otherwise it falls apart. One of the failures newlyweds make is viewing the wedding as the finish line instead of the starting gun of a life-long marathon. You can’t coast on inertia. You have to constantly feed energy into the relationship, whether by arranging the occasional romantic get-away or by keeping the kids away from a worn-out spouse who needs some space to relax.
If you want your children to grow into decent human beings you spend time, money and energy to educate them and build their characters. But you don’t buy all that up front or spend it all at once. It comes from you in the morning when you drag them out of their beds. It comes in the mid-day with calls from school or text messages for various requests. It is a constant feeding of energy into a child and even as they grow older and become independent it does not go away. Instead that energy morphs into worry, and there is no fear in the world like waiting for a child to come after missing her curfew. The seconds stretch into horrifying minutes punctuated by unanswered text messages and phone calls until mercifully ending with a texted response. “Sorry. Fell asleep watching a movie. On my way home now.”
Jobs are by there nature high entropy. We are inevitably graded on our performance and success only raises expectations. If we manage people we have to expend energy to help them become better at what they do and achieve success in their positions. Some of us have to do the same for our bosses as well.
You can’t have friends without tending their relationships either. Expend no energy and the connection withers away until all that is left from time spent sharing heart-to-heart chats and intense experiences are likes on Facebook.
Houses require constant upkeep. My grass is so high I swear I can hear Ride of the Valkyries and chopper blades in the distance. Is that napalm I smell? No it’s the 5 gallon gas can that cracked from sitting in the sun too long where I left it after the lawn tractor threw yet another belt.
Finally there are our own bodies and minds. These usually come last but likely shouldn’t. When healthy our minds take our bodies for granted. We might not be gym-worthy, but we can pick up a 40 lb bag of cat litter and carry it down the stairs without becoming out of breath or feeling pain. The mind doesn’t even think about the wonder of that action. It just takes it for granted until our body fails us. Then the mind slips from its authoritative perch and all it can do is focus on the failure of the body to do what it has done all along without complaint.
If we live in an entropic world, how do we live with entropy without falling apart? How do we keep expending increasing amounts of energy while our own reserves become depleted?