Whenever I gaze up at the clear sky full of stars at night, I feel like a time traveler. The endless universe seems serene and orderly, but destruction and creation continuously occur in every blink of my eyes, creating disorder. But, hey, who am I to say stillness is order and change is disorder? There could not be disorder without having order at first. Similarly, order is formed to become disorder, according to the concept of entropy: any spontaneous process increases the disorder of the universe.
An example of entropy can be observed when a person litters, causing disorder in their room. The act of cleaning up the garbage requires expending energy to restore order and reduce the entropy in the room. As time goes on, this process is repeated over and over again. The person, as an energetic being whose energy spreads out, ages and develops visible wrinkles — causing another disorder. When the person dies, their energy is absorbed by nature to be transformed into many particles to become trees, food, wind and then a human formed by many particles again.
Experimental psychologist Steven Pinker once said, “The Second Law of Thermodynamics defines the ultimate purpose of life, mind and human striving — to deploy energy and information to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order.” The law states that entropy always increases with time, and we as people always need to put effort into our lives to maintain an orderly lifestyle competing against the universe and time. But it is tiring, isn’t it?
In my opinion, the universe exists as an equilibrium, with the product being the disorder, sustained by these two opposite forces of order and disorder that coherently collided into one strong bond. As an analogy, that equilibrium is the present moment for us. If we always work so hard to keep that order, I feel like we would forget how many things are going right in the present — flowers blooming, people smiling with their wrinkles and the embrace of the wind on our skin.
In the universe where everything will eventually “fall apart,” embrace the balance between order and disorder. Who are you without your worries for the future? Who are you without guilt and regret from the past? Who are you in the present moment? What is your equilibrium? It could be relaxing: writing an essay, reading, playing basketball and talking to your loved ones. Maybe this law tests us to be present and observe the beauty of order and disorder.
I would love to end this column with Eckhart Tolle’s saying, “Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now.”
FIGURE OF SOUL is a column written by first-year psychology major Ninjin Tumurbat (she/her) that analyzes metaphors. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.