Entropy has been weighing on my mind and body

by Jean Stimmell

“Even the words that we are speaking now, thieving time has stolen away, and nothing can return.” — Horace, Odes, 23 BC

Watching my body fall apart at the age of 78, I can no longer ignore the fact that entropy is taking over.

Entropy, of course, is the scientific fact that everything in the cosmos winds down, the universal reality that order inevitably turns toward disorder. As Carlo Rovelli has written in The Order of Time,⁠ 1 entropy is special: as opposed to all the other laws of the universe, time is not reversible. You can’t go backward.

How well I know! It’s a one-way street.

Rovelli writes that what’s special about time is that “the difference between past and future does not lie in the elementary laws of motion; it does not reside in the deep grammar of nature.” Instead, it’s a natural disordering leading gradually to “less particular, less special situations.”

That’s exactly what my old body is feeling: Less particular and less special all the time.

Science tells us that at the beginning of time, the cosmos was in perfect order and has been unraveling ever since. Some say when the disorder is complete, everything will stop, just as it does for us as individuals at our death.

On the other hand, Buddhists and some rogue scientists claim that the cosmos’s trajectory from order to disorder is part of a cycle that repeats itself over and over again. Whatever it is, as merely a hermit from Northwood, I cannot make that call.

The key for me is more immediate: the urgent need to find some branch to grasp—an anchor to hold onto against the uncertain demands ahead—as I am swept down this tempestuous river called life. For many folks, that anchor is established religion, something I don’t have. In lieu of that, I have pieced together two disparate strands that guide me and give me solace.

First, I know that I am made up of ancient and primordial atoms that have been here since the beginning of time and that these fundamental elements will live on, returning to the cosmos until called upon to return as part of some new life form.

Second, I believe in Complexity Theory, which, according to Neil Theise, is the most important theory of the 20th century after quantum physics and relativity. This notion makes the mind-blowing claim that the essence of the universe is not material things but consciousness itself, which resides not in our puny three-pound brain but in each and every atom in the cosmos.

These two components have become my anchor, transforming my understanding of who I am. They puncture the illusion that this person called Jean, who is writing this essay, actually exists. Instead, I become merely the composite of everything and everyone I have interacted with throughout my life.

This notion is beautifully expressed in the Buddhist metaphor “Indra’s Net,” first referenced in India over 3000 years ago.

There is an endless net of threads throughout the universe…

At every crossing of the threads, there is an individual.

And every individual is a crystal bead. And every crystal bead reflects

not only the light from every other crystal in the net

but also every other reflection throughout the entire universe 2

How wonderful if consciousness is, indeed, the pure truth of the universe, directly accessible to each of us and not filtered through the fallible beliefs of shamans, witch doctors, preachers, mullahs, and rabbis.

I am fully aware that when I am recycled back into a new life form, it is not likely to be a Homo sapien. I have no problem with that because in the world we now live in, I’m increasingly ashamed to be a human being and would rather come back as an earthworm or a mud turtle.


1 – Rovelli, Carlo. The Order of Time (p. 1). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

2 – http://jeanstimmell.blogspot.com/2011/03/reflections-and-indras-net.html.

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