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2018-07-11: Recently I had realised that for the longest time I’ve been trying to fight entropy, to use my energy to create order from chaos, and suffering terribly as a result. In recent weeks it’s become clear to me that not only can I no longer sustain this, but that it is completely futile. In the long run chaos ensues, it’s inevitable to find “cows in shoes” as Lano & Woodley put it…

cows in shoes

The universe seems to have presented a few things to me that have made this clear.

While reading a manifesto on code ethics, I came across the concept of effective altruism:

a philosophy and social movement that uses evidence and reasoning to determine the most effective ways to benefit others

This reminded me of the “trolly dilemma”, a thought experiment where a decision has to be made to either allow a tragedy to unfold that would see many people die, or make the decision to sacrifice the life of one person in order to save them. Michael Stevens of VSausce fame brought the experiment to life in an amazing simulation.

This then lead me to a similar experiment but on a much grander scale, The Push by Derren Brown that showed how people can actually be manipulated to commit murder, and from there to his show Miracle where at one point he said something along the lines of:

“There is no past or future, only the present, and we can’t really change change it but we can change what we think and what we do, so if we embrace that we can accept everything thing else as being perfectly fine just the way it is”

(Or words to that effect.)

So I’ve been thinking about how to consolidate embracing entropy with mindfulness meditation. On one hand, I’ve found mindfulness and presence to be calming and soothing, but on the other hand they do seem to act against entropy by reducing the level of the mind’s chaos and disorder. Are they really contradictory though?

I’ve found at work that simply allowing chaos to ensue, or embracing cows in shoes, I’m able to be more mindful and present, which allows me to be more insightful and compassionate. When I have my pragmatic engineer hat on, I feel the pursuit of order and focus that is required to create value becoming a conflict with the ensuing chaos.

In this discussion thread where someone asks about making a connection between entropy and zen, a particularly enlightened commenter says:

The universe is not only expanding, but it also wants to expand. Enlightened people are people who allow the universe to expand through them while the unenlightened resist it.

Allow the universe to expand through you. Interesting.

In this post on zen meets entropy, the author suggests that: (emphasis added)

Entropy is the sequentiality of space, existence even. Zen is a deep understanding of Entropy. You can’t undo anything. Zen is the acceptance of the fact you cannot reverse the state of things as they are now. Right now, things are what they are. Entropy and Zen are invitations to be patient :) Have a patient morning.

Reinforcing the point about accepting that we can’t change the state of things as they are now, but we can embrace it.

In this post on making friends with entropy, the author also suggests that entropy is the nature of the universe, and says that resisting it is why we suffer, as I’ve found, proposing instead that:

The awakened response to all this is a deep restructuring of our own reaction to entropic processes. They are not insults, mistakes, outrages. They are just the nature of the universe. When things fall apart, don’t resist. Enjoy. As things collapse, notice the pleasure of allowing the universe to be what it is.

Notice the pleasure of allowing the universe to be what it is. Awesome.