On Entropy and Allegiance

On entropy, and allegiance…

I have been thinking about the great forces of the universe.

One is a creative force, and one, a destructive one. It seems that in the state of nature these forces almost balance.

Sort of the “circle of life” scenario, where all things have their time and fulfill their purpose.

Every demise somehow adds to the viability of some new life.

It is interesting to ponder the question of which force is more powerful.

On the one hand, the creative force is so compelling that humankind has almost collectively put its faith in it, in one form or another.

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It is arguable that devotion to the creative force is the impetus behind all human achievement—whether on a personal or a societal level—in any arena.

On the other hand, the destructive force requires almost no energy to do its work.

Leave an apple on a counter and watch over the course of days how entropy has its effect with great efficiency.

The introduction of human will seems to tip the scale—either to the one side or to the other.

Consider an office building.

You could consider for some time without ever fully enumerating the vast number of details that had to be ordered to lead to its creation.

Not just the design, the organization of materials, the construction; include also the training of the individuals that took part in every aspect of its erection, as architects, sub-contractors, inspectors, inventors, regulators of code, investors, miners of ore, manufacturers of tools and technologies, etc.

But it must go further—the “natural selection” of the parentage of each individual that led to their gifts, affinities and opportunities.

You could go deeper and deeper and still find long lists of events and circumstances that had to coincide for that building to come into existence.

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The confluence of events is astronomically great—virtually unfathomable.

That plot of ground could stand vacant for eternities without such a building coming into existence by happenstance.

And yet—let the office building, once erected, stand for a century or two, and circumstances will conspire to tear it down.

Either by violent acts of nature or by simple entropy (as in the case of the apple), the destructive force will have its way.

But the most likely way for the building to come down is as a result of human will.

Consider the wrecking ball: how simply is its work carried out, how mindlessly, as opposed to the care required to put each I-beam in place.

What a profound difference!

But as I thought of the great forces in the universe, I wasn’t looking for meaning in the way buildings go up or come down.

I was thinking about human will.

I was thinking about the care it takes to build something, the astronomically long odds against success, and the fragility of things once built—whether it be a marriage, a family, a business, a reputation, or whatever else.

I was thinking of the casual way in which we sometimes give our will to destructive forces—which really need no helping along in their work, after all!

I was thinking about allegiance.

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While I appreciate the destructive force in nature—where would we be if dead things did not return to the earth?—I must say that in terms of human will I consider allegiance to the destructive force, or respect for the work humans do to humans using the destructive force, to be a pretty fair working definition of “evil”.

It is disturbing to think that we sometimes choose to align our sacred will to the purpose of tearing down.

Almost as disturbing, and perhaps more insidious, is the mindset that gives more credence to the voice of destruction than to the voice of creation.

A wise man once counseled, “Be a builder, not a basher.”

It requires no genius to tear something down, and even less to support or be led by those who do.

It requires character, sacrifice, persistence and optimism to build things up, and these are the recipe for happiness.

Another wise man once told me, “The messenger is the message.”

By this he meant: if the voice is tearing down, that’s all you need to know.

Shun it.

Even if there is truth in it, it is being distorted to a destructive purpose.

Truth with intent to deceive is more treacherous than Lie.

Truth ought better to be learned from a different messenger—one with allegiance to the creative power.

So the question is: Where is my allegiance?

Am I a builder or a basher?

Do I lend my will to tipping the scales toward creation or toward destruction?

Do I allow myself to be unsteadied by voices that tear down?

Am I one who speaks peace and builds bridges?

How does my allegiance manifest itself in my daily choices?

What kind of messenger am I? Do I criticize my spouse or children?

Do I allow criticism or discouragement to keep me from building something of value?

Do I speak words about others that are destructive rather than creative?

Do I heed bashers—even if only in repeating their messages?

Or do I shape my own thoughts and the dialog in my home and community toward a spirit of building, and of healing?

Do I put my effort in building, creating, making a difference, irrespective of the praise or censure of others?

Perhaps in an election year, in a year when economic conditions are perilous, it may seem that incivility and meanness are giving the destructive force an advantage.

The destructive force can manifest itself with chaotic power or with subtle erosion.

But Virginia Woolf said, “Odd how the creative power at once brings the whole universe to order.”

123 diaOur character, our choices, our virtue, wisdom, diplomacy and courage, can inspire greatness in others and move the cause of liberty.

Sometimes all that people need to incite them to align themselves with the creative force is to simply consider it.

When they see nobility in someone else, they can suddenly conceive of themselves as being noble.

Pettiness, narrow-mindedness, indolence, carelessness and negativity give way to generosity, tolerance, ingenuity, charity and optimism.

We have the power to make a difference.

James Russell Lowell penned in his Sonnet IV:

Be noble! And the nobleness that lies in other men, sleeping, but never dead, will rise in majesty to meet thine own.

Words to live by…

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About the Author:

Rachel is the co-author of Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning and the audio series Core and Love of Learning: A Recipe for Success, and the author of the award-winning educational resource, This Week in History. She is an accomplished musician, writer, literary editor, public speaker, consultant and momschool organizer.

2 Comments

  1. Dawn October 3, 2010 at 9:30 pm - Reply

    Those truly are words to live by.

  2. Stephen Palmer July 23, 2012 at 12:19 am - Reply

    Makes me think of “The Unmaker” in the Tales of Alvin Maker series by Orson Scott Card.

    Classic article, Rachel. Worth reading over and over.

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