On the way in to work this morning I realized that the phrase “your name is ‘mud’” applies to me in a a quite real sense. My name is mud. I love puns. But that’s not important right now. Entropy. It has been on my mind lately. So many things are on the old noggin and little bits appear in my other ramblings until I realize there is a filet mignon cut up into all the ham salad of my other posts. Or at least a sirloin.
Now it is a pretty widely disseminated theory that the universe will end in entropy, heat-death, when the last candlewick of a star gutters and all molecular motion ceases. Whatever. I don’t know much about that. What I do know is that my society, perhaps even humans in general, seem to promote entropy. Perhaps it is inherent to every living being, that it must take in matter and destroy it in order to function. Since we are mentally evolved to be efficient not effective despite being bodily evolved to be effective not efficient [that idea sort of comes from here] the path of consumption seems inevitable.
This sort of leads into and feeds what I see as the two main types of humanly perpetuated entropy: stagnation and homogenization. Stagnation is pretty obvious, refusing change and opposing everything that would change the status quo. There is one person I work with who epitomizes this to me. If things went this person’s way we would still do all of our editing with pencil and paper, or at best, on the old VAX system. Stagnant and obsolete.
The other type of human entropy that I’ve thought about is also concerned with the status quo, but in this instance the concern stems from unification through homogenization instead of unchange. I guess a good example of this would be consumer and corporate American culture; the Melting Pot idea instead of the Mulligan Stew. So you can go across the country and in every large city find the same shopping complex, with the same stores, selling the same things to the virtually identical people from a few thousand miles and a couple of mountain ranges away. I figure that path probably ends in stagnation as well. Once everyone in the world speaks the same language, uses the same currency, bends to the same economic and political whims and is the same putty color…
I think what pulled this all together for me was my recent completion of Cordwainer Smith’s The Rediscovery of Man. In this collection of short stories, humanity becomes so homogenized and stagnant in their utopic happiness that the genetically modified animal-men called ‘underpeople’ seem more human to the reader. At least, before the Rediscovery of Man and the subsequent rediscovery of variety.
So while entropy might be unavoidable, at least we don’t have to hurry the process along. [Peak oil, global warming, ethnocentric ecotourist consumption disguised as multiculturalism [We just love Indian food, but can you believe they eat it with their hand?! How drolly uncouth.]] The easiest way for me to start is by seeking out variety wherever and whatever I am doing. That will fight the status quo of homogenization. Then I’ve got to try to figure out paradigm shifts that will pull me out of the efficient/effective trap described by William McDonough and therefore keep me from becoming inured in the status quo of stagnation. At least I’ve identified the problem. Now, on to solutions.