Personal entropy

Lately I’ve found myself fascinated by the concept of entropy. Entropy is basically a law which states that things will naturally flow from a state of order to disorder. It applies to the universe as a whole – the big bang disordered things – and to nature in general. In another context you might think of it as decay.

Things basically have different degrees of entropy – high, low, and in between. It’s an interesting thing to understand. A house has low entropy (and I always get these things arse about), because from the day it is built it will decay in some way – tiles will become askew, paint will fade, windows will break, the fixtures will become worn. Left alone and untended within a generation or two it will be an overgrown wreck. It has a low entropy because a man-made structure such as this is complex, and the chances of the particles of which it is constructed being randomly arranged in that fashion is virtually impossible. Essentially everything about us is in some stage or state of entropy.

Funny once you get something like this in your head you begin to see it everywhere in some aspect or another. My last few days have been full of it.

On Thursday afternoon we had a power black-out. Rather than being the neighbourhood, it was localised to this house. I’ve long thought there’s some dodgy wiring in the place as blackouts are regular, but this time it was more serious.

The power went off about 4.30pm. I managed to get the lights back on, but none of the major appliances. I went about unplugging appliances throughout the house trying to isolate the cause, but without luck. I spent a very dull night without TV, a fridge, or an oven to cook in. Come the next morning I realised the one appliance I hadn’t checked was the old chest freezer in the pantry, out of sight and out of mind.

Turned out that was the problem. I unplugged that and we were back on air. Unfortunately by this stage we’d been without refrigeration for about 16 hours. The weather had been mild, but whatever processes (yes, entropy, more specifically, decay) had been triggered were accelerated by the circumstances. A freezer has a motor that generates the cold. It generates heat, but the refrigeration negates that. With the refrigeration of the motor has residual heat even when not running. The heat was sufficient to accelerate the defrosting process.

The result of this was that I spent a fun couple of hours emptying the freezer of virtually defrosted stuff. Being an old freezer it had ice in it, which now sat at the bottom of the freezer as an odorous, discoloured and basically horrible slurry. I had to fish things out of it, getting the stink on my hands – I washed my hands a dozens times or more afterwards, and still felt dirty.

I threw half the things out, and with some reservations put the rest in the fridge freezer, now operating. There were all manner of ancient things in the freezer, including possibly the cheap cuts of a woolly mammoth. The smell was everywhere. I couldn’t drain the freezer as it had no plug, so had to drag outside and tilt it on its side. Still, the odour was pervasive.

Then yesterday I was dragged into helping someone move house. Don’t ask me why. One of the people I’d been in contact with for the first time in 4 years asked if I could help. I must be a good Samaritan, because I said yes. Now I hate moving my own stuff. There is nothing less fun. And here I was journeying across town to help someone else.

As you can imagine, there were a few things that ran through my mind as I was driving. Surely, I thought, he must have some other mate from the church or something to help at – rather than someone he hasn’t seen in 4 years? I asked myself why I had agreed (but felt obliged – some people are just asking of others what I wouldn’t dare). Okay, I thought, there must be some good karma points in this at least.

Karma means a lot to me. It’s one of the few things I believe, though increasingly only in theory. Generally Im of the nature that I’d rather be obliging, than obliged. I’m hesitant to ask favours, or help of any kind. As a rule I plan to be well ahead on the credit side of the ledger. By and large that’s always been the case, and may remain so even considering the difficulties of the last 18 months, and the generosity of others. I still try to chip in.

So I got there, shifted some white goods, a heavy desk, a dining table, and so on. I had things on later in the day, and said I had to leave at 2.30. I got away at about 3.20 picturing my karma balance zoom. Rushed home, etc, and then out in not a great mood – exacerbated by the traffic lights I’d experienced all day. Don’t know if that’s entropy or chaos, but in any case either the lights were unsynchronised, or I was. It’s not a great thing when you’re in a temper.

One of the interesting things yesterday was meeting my friend Josh after 4 years. He’s always had a jolly face and a cheery, good-natured demeanour. He’s now got a very jolly stomach too. I guess he’s put on more than a stone since I last saw him. I’ve gone the other way, to the point that his wife claimed I’ve been working out – I haven’t, but I’d be a good 8 kg’s lighter I reckon (sorry to mix my imperial/metric measurements – I’m a cross-over child).

To me this was another instance of entropy. If we presume the fit and healthy human being to be in a state of order, then the litany of ailments and the effects of aging reflect the forces of disorder.

Dave the other day presented as gaunt and aged; Josh with an unhealthy gut on him. These things seem the natural order of things. Few of us avoid going grey (or losing our hair), and most will get heavier as they age, or unhealthily thin. Our eyesight diminishes, our knees go (Cheeseboy), we don’t hear as well, and so on. We have obsolescence built-in.

I may claim to be lighter and fitter now when I last saw Josh, but I’m greyer too, and just last week I saw a podiatrist about a painful foot that has me walking with a limp half the time. I’ve had glasses since I was 20, have a permanent chest condition, had a DVT in my leg, and a knee of my own where I suspect the cruciate ligament is gone. Hell, I may even be a crock (I’m actually eligible for one of the few remaining government health benefits because I’m said to have two chronic conditions).

All of this is inevitable I guess, our own very personal form of entropy – completed one day when I return to the soil.

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