On Chaos.

I recently started reading a book called Why Fish Don’t Exist, and it starts in the most interesting manner.

Picture the person you love the most. Picture them sitting on the couch, eating cereal, ranting about something totally charming, like how it bothers them when people sign their emails with a single initial instead of taking those four extra keystrokes to just finish the job— Chaos will get them. Chaos will crack them from the outside—with a falling branch, a speeding car, a bullet—or unravel them from the inside, with the mutiny of their very own cells. Chaos will rot your plants and kill your dog and rust your bike. It will decay your most precious memories, topple your favorite cities, wreck any sanctuary you can ever build. It’s not if, it’s when. Chaos is the only sure thing in this world. The master that rules us all.

Of course, this is true. We that the only sure thing is death and taxes, but we go about our lives as if we are going to live forever. This leads to paradoxical behavioural patterns. We push things out to tomorrow, that mystical land where all of our dreams and ambitions lie, always one day away. We will write our symphony, just not today. We will get serious about studying, but after the weekend. The diet will start after the next meal.

But on the other hand, if we did live forever we would take far better care of ourselves. I’ve seen individuals who take better care of their cars and motorbikes than they do their own physical and mental health. In this regards, I am not sure if this is because they know that they are not going to live forever, or there is the idea that they can always improve their behaviour later on.

The fact is, that the world is ruled by Entropy. This is a word that one, in certain circles, hears a lot. But what is it, precisely? Entropy is a term used in thermodynamics to describe the measure of disorder or randomness in a system. It is a measure of the number of possible arrangements of a system’s particles or components that would result in the same overall energy and other macroscopic properties. In other words, it is a measure of the system’s tendency toward disorder and the amount of energy that is unavailable to do useful work. The second law of thermodynamics states that the total entropy of a closed system always increases over time, meaning that the system becomes more disordered and less able to do useful work.

Whatever work and effort that we do to organise the world or our lives, actually increases the amount of disorganisation in the universe. We can, temporarily, decrease entropy locally. This is because the energy that is expended to do the work ultimately dissipates into the environment in the form of heat, which increases the entropy of the universe.

In general, any work that is done involves the transfer of energy, and this transfer always results in some amount of energy being lost as heat, which increases the overall entropy of the system. Therefore, all work ultimately increases the entropy of the universe. However, some forms of work may be more efficient than others, and can result in less entropy increase per unit of work done. For example, a well-designed and maintained machine can be more efficient than a poorly designed or maintained machine, and can therefore result in less entropy increase per unit of work done.

In other words, we cannot, in the long term, fight chaos, but we can pick our battles and try and make improvements in our lives, and the better we are at that, the longer we can keep the show going.

I often like to ask myself: Why get up in the morning?

And I have never really found a good answer for this. It’s not work, it’s not pleasure, it’s not anything. But, I have found that it is far harder to stay in bed and do nothing than the alternative to go out in the world and engage with it. This is probably to do with our evolutionary biology, and the fact that we would not be here now had our species not had the motivation to find food and other basic life necessities on a consistent basis.

But that does not inspire much with regards to the meaning of life. So I get out of bed…because I am hungry? Or some variation of this?

I mean, perhaps yes. One is hungry, so you need food. To get food, someone has to grow that food and transport it to you, and so you need to be able to give them something in return. Enter money. How do you get money? Well, you have to offer something useful to the world. There are lots of ways to do that, but some are better than others. Working in a tannery in Morocco is objectively worse from a sense-perspective than working remotely as a technology worker from a beach in Indonesia. So if we want to get the more desirable jobs, we then have to improve ourselves. So this is why we get out of bed in the morning, to get better and be able to compete with others, so we can get some food and meet our other basic biological needs.

But, what’s funny is that for many well-paid jobs out there, you are paid far more than is necessary to acquire the basics for survival and to thrive. And so we develop additional wants and desires that are far beyond what even the kings of the past could have imagined.

But in the end, it is all for nothing. This is something that we have to accept. In a billion years from now, nothing you will have done will matter. Likely not even in a million years, or even in one thousands years. And probably even a lot less than that.

And yet you are here now, so you can either sink or temporarily stay afloat and then eventually sink. The battle against chaos is a battle that we will also lose, but we can try to keep our heads above water while we can.

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