Entropy of Life

In many ways, Albert Einstein's Relativity is bizarre. But Quantum Mechanics (QM) is so bizarre that even he couldn't accept it. He and Niels Bohr waged an intellectual war that lasted two decades until he died. In the end, though it still doesn't make sense, QM proved to be right and accurate again and again and again. There is a saying among the people who work in QM: "Shut up and calculate".

John Bell:

"Bohr was inconsistent, unclear, willfully obscure and right"

"Einstein was consistent, clear, down-to-earth and wrong"

We want to make sense of our life and the world we live in. But what exactly is 'making sense'? It is simply rooted in our expectation and finding some security – so we can feel comfortable. When we find that there may not be any meaning and life is fundamentally groundless, it freaks us out. We struggle with the uncertainty, unknown, ambiguity and paradox of life. So we invent many comfort seeking entities and ideas. However hard we may try to hide the reality or looking away from it to escape, it always follows us and knocks at our door — reminding us its presence.

Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann showed why disorder (entropy) always increases (The second law of thermodynamics), though there might be temporary local orders. Whether naturally evolved orders such as galaxies, planetary systems, life, etc., or orders created by humans such as house, car, refrigerator, etc., they all are temporary and continually falling apart. The basic reason for this is that probability of an order is very low compare to disorder — so, as time goes by, it naturally leads to disorder.

Boltzmann’s idea was not accepted during life time. Depression prone Boltzmann, hanged himself. His idea achieved acceptance only shortly after his death. Two millennia earlier, Gautama Buddha taught his own version of entropy: Everything is temporary and bound to fall apart. His whole wisdom is rooted in the truth of impermanence.

The more conditions, demands and expectations we have in life or in relationships, the possibility of failure also increases. Hence it leads to disappointments and suffering. Everyday we make one step closer to the graveyard — eventually the body gets old and die. Life is fundamentally groundless. There is nothing to hold on to. There is no certainty, no security. But we long for a lasting certainty and security, for something to hold on to. And that is the source of our suffering. We are fighting against the reality – the truth of life.

Instead of fighting, can we learn to understand and relax with groundlessness? Life is like a roller coaster with ups and downs; instead of struggling, can we sit down and enjoy the ride?

"The bad news is you're falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is, there's no ground." — Chögyam Trungpa

There is no guarantee in life. There is no shelter, no protector. This is the utter hopelessness of our situation. As we do not want to accept the reality, we have been planting so much of hope in our heart. This is playing on our weakness. When there is hope, so is fear — the other side of the same coin. When we stuck in the cycle of hope and fear, we always have to run around and around, but never finding true peace and joy. To go beyond the cycle of fear and hope, we have to fearlessly move into life and get to know it directly.

Instead of simply growing old, we can learn to grow up at last by courageously looking at life just as it is, without grasping or rejecting; opening up to life without any expectation; simply staying on the brink, moment by moment where life is fully alive and throbbing!


CK. Kamaraj
24 September 2018