As the title of this post suggests, as referred to in Part 1 of this essay, it is not only about entropy and thermodynamics, but is also about enthusiasm for and optimism about life. It is, therefore, about human endeavour, from the smallest and least significant to the most admirable and life changing endeavours ever achieved by the human race. Whatever your accomplishments, however great or small they are, or however great or small a part you play in greater achievements, they still represent progress in both time and towards order and, according to Newton’s second law of physics, this tells us that matter can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be converted from one form to another. Therefore, each breath we draw, each word we speak, each action we take, is never lost; it remains as a small quantum of energy, an echo of which will exist forever, somewhere in the cosmos.
I just love the mere thought of this concept, let alone that it could actually be true.
The other principle put forth by astrophysicists, which seems to be irrefutable, is that time is irreversible. Professor Cox referred to this as the arrow of time, always pointing and moving in one direction, never going back. He does give lip service to the possibility that this cannot be said to be true with absolute certainty, but that it is extremely unlikely or, in statistical terminology, there is a very low probability that time will reverse. So it must also be with human enterprise, in whatever field of endeavour it may be, there is need for us to accept that we will always move forwards, never backwards; onwards and, preferably, upwards in our understanding of life, our world and the universe. Otherwise, there is a tendency toward disorder, mentally, physically and maybe spiritually too. We can read about the past, we can look at pictures of it and we can learn from it, but we live for the future.
Trying to persuade a teenager to tidy their bedroom is impossible without a carrot; and even then it is still difficult. Maybe they could be persuaded by the thought of ‘black dwarves’ imploding and evaporating into nothingness as a consequence of not keeping their bedrooms in order and halting the ‘tendency toward disorder’. May be, may be not! But our every move, motivation and impulse is driven by the march of time as well as this tendency in our everyday lives – let alone what is happening in the world at large – toward disorder, whether that disorder has natural or man-made causes. But I don’t think we should feel any less relaxed about the march of time than we would otherwise feel. On the contrary, I suggest, as a result of this thesis, this comparison with the enormity of the universe, that, provided we can get our minds round the huge timescales, we should allow its perspective to comfort us: that there is no panic or rush. As much as we can sometimes enjoy the moment, life is really a journey into the future. Technically, we cannot stand still; we have to accept that even standing still and enjoying the moment is, still, moving and progressing into the future. It is deeply ingrained in our being.
So, I suppose it depends on whether we are an optimist or a pessimist, an enthusiast or less eager, as to whether we find it easier or harder to push the outside of the envelope and re-order the disorder in our lives. But push we must. There is an enduring lesson that I take from this particular perspective. When I compare the huge amount of time that will have elapsed between the beginning and ending of the universe to the minuscule timescale of our own existence on Earth, our own small little part of the world, which is an even smaller (by a trillion, trillion, trillion, etc orders of magnitude) than the great big cosmos, then the feeling I am left with is that we have plenty of time. Did you know that, since our forebears first evolved on our earth, in Africa about two and a half million years ago, our own solar system has revolved around the galaxy (the ‘Milky Way’) by only one percent of a complete orbit of the galaxy; and the galaxy itself is only one of billions in the universe. So, hey, if things didn’t quite go to plan today, whatever; “am I bovvered’ as Catherine Tate would say!
I’m not sure to whom the quotation is attributed, but Professor Brian Cox, in the process of concluding the first episode, said that “Life is the means by which the cosmos understands itself.” Obvious on one level, but extraordinarily significant on another. There might be other, similar life in another solar system in our own galaxy or in another galaxy farther away, but we are unlikely to find out if they do exist. We truly cannot know even the probability of the human race co-existing along with another civilisation, somewhere else in the universe, because – as Vlad, The Astrophysicist tells us – the enormous distances and time scale that the universe represents, make this probability extremely low. This being the case – in spite of an imperfect world, which sometimes seems to be broken – perhaps we should stop trying to escape from our Mother Earth, stop trying to dream the impossible (or improbable) dream, and start trying to fix what we have broken; stop breaking what we have left.
To be the remarkable, intellectual, innovative and industrious animals that we are, where we are right now, is still very special and continues to give me hope that we can reverse the destruction of our very small part of the universe, that is our Mother Earth. I hope that, in spite of sometimes awesome uncertainty and the depressing way in which some members of the human race behave towards her (not forgetting the entropy, of course), you will agree that we do still have the capability to meet our future together on this planet with optimism and enthusiasm?
JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).
John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising“. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.
* Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.
2 thoughts on “Enthusiasm and Optimism vs Entropy … Part 2”
Enthusiasm, optimism, and joyful responsibility! If you view using your life energy, your agency, toward reversing destruction as an obligation, it becomes a downer. (Is that a physics term?) If you view it as being joyfully responsible, it’s life-giving!
I say Amen, Hallelujah and Hooray to that, Priscilla! I would add, however, that we should, nevertheless, still try to reverse or prevent destruction wherever it may cause harm and distress particularly to those who have not got the means to defend themselves and their rights.
P.S. In light of fact that not all things in our universe are necessarily good, I think we should honour the word “Downer” with the due respect it deserves in the Physics Hall of Fame!