Understanding entropy is one way to start accepting change.
Aug. 2, 2020
Entropy is a law of the universe that describes a perpetual trend toward disorder. It is a property that is physical, shown by the gradual loss of energy in physical systems; chemical, as molecules constantly decay; and philosophical, paralleling the idea that you and your surroundings are constantly changing.
Entropy relates to so many subjects and concepts because it permeates our universe. It’s as fundamental as gravity.
I’m going to address the philosophical application of entropy, which is all about the inevitability of change. You can think of entropy as the law of constant change. And understanding entropy is one way to start accepting change.
In The Pursuit of Purpose, I explain how accepting change can benefit your mindset:
Change is the universal nature; it is an inescapable fact. By this, stagnation is impossible. If you are not experiencing positive progress, then you are falling behind.
Everything is always changing from one state to another. If you stagnate, then you are moving backwards, relative to everything around you. Change will hit you that you weren’t prepared for. It’s better to acknowledge that change is everywhere, always, and that you have to actively shape change into something positive in order to progress.
Here’s the gist: change only causes uncertainty if you refuse to accept change as a certainty. If you always expect change, then you’ll be better prepared to deal with what comes your way. Entropy — the perpetual trend toward disorder — can become your vehicle for growth.
Order and Chaos
More than the low of change, entropy is the inevitability of disorder. Entropy is the instigator of a cosmic tug-of-war that we’re all too familiar with: the dichotomy of order and chaos. Entropy — this unavoidable, fundamental law of the universe — has pitted order and chaos against each other and has already chosen a winner: chaos. So, is it worth it to pursue order?
Yes, it is.
We should create and maintain order because we — lifeforms — are the only force in the universe that can work counter to entropy. Everything else in nature bends to the will of this chaotic trend, according to the laws of causality.
I say “lifeforms” because all life has the ability to create order; it’s not unique to humanity, though we are the best at it (as far as we know). If you stop to think about what it means to create order, it quickly becomes clear that no non-living thing in nature — rock formations, oceans, rivers, planets, galaxies — could do it. What in the universe can organize systems, communicate with other beings, and act for self-preservation? Only plants, animals, and us. That’s pretty incredible, and countering chaos is something that humanity is well adapted to do. It is our nature to bring order into the universe.
Maybe the order-chaos dichotomy would be better described as a duality, for there is never either complete order or complete chaos, and it’s best to have some mix of the two. Under complete order, there is no potential for spontaneous, unintentional change, which is often the source of innovation, growth and progress. Similarly, utter chaos eliminates any chance of holding on to what is valuable and carrying it into the future; everything comes and goes equally without consideration or valuation.
The best place to be is in a mostly ordered state that still has the potential for spontaneous change. Entropy says that we can never experience complete order because disorder is an inevitability of our universe. That means that we could create the most ordered societies, directing our own progress and development, without ever sacrificing the potential for unexpected change. We should counter entropy completely — always retaining order and never electing for chaos — because it is impossible to snuff out chaos completely.
Entropy itself is by no means negative; it’s just a fact. But it’s a powerful fact that can chew you up and spit you out. If we make no attempt to instill order or to use our power to direct change, then the trend toward disorder will engulf us. Our societies, institutions, social structures, and quality of life would decay like any molecule and dissipate energy like any physical system until we live in a state of unordered phenomena, governed by the whimsical wills of cosmic causality. Understand entropy, accept chaos, and enact change to instill order in the universe.