HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 8, 2013 – 12:00am
Last night, as I passed along The Fort at Bonifacio Global City, I marveled at the lighted buildings and the pace of construction going on. The whole place has a feel of a new city being born. Since eight years ago when it was acquired by new management, it has added more than a hundred skyscrapers to its glass and steel landscape.
Buildings today take a much shorter time to construct compared to just 25 years back. Not only are they made faster, many are architectural and engineering marvels, some defying what seemed impossible just years ago. Amazing!
On another arena, I also like watching athletes — bikers, tennis players, racers, runners, basketball players, skiers beating world records and their personal bests. I find that inspiring as well.
It seems that in every field of human endeavor, the quest to learn, do, achieve ever-greater feats has always been the expectation and the end goal of all. Extending the frontiers of what is humanly possible is what it is all about. This is why we are in awe when we send humans to outer space, make stem cells to delay aging, create new amazing technologies, etc.
I have always asked myself why people do these things with great obsession. Edmund Hillary, the first person to step on top of Mt. Everest when asked the question why he did it supposedly answered, “Because it’s there!” While I can understand the answer on one level, I’ve often tried to go deeper in grappling with the question of why we do what we do.
I am especially curious since we live in a world where entropy rules. Entropy has four definitions in the dictionary, but I would like to concentrate on just one of its meanings, which is the “inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.” For this article, I’m adding one more word to the definition and it is “everything.” In short, entropy means systems, societies, everything will eventually break down, deteriorate, be destroyed, corrupt and vanish. Nothing lasts forever. It is not a cynical opinion but a true, factual statement. It is a rule of life in the material plane.
In many ways, we can say gravity largely causes entropy.
Think about it. Everything material or physical has an expiry date because of the non-stop, 24/7 pull of gravity. Gravity weighs in on everything animate or inanimate. Steel will rust and disintegrate. Mountains will turn into flatlands eventually. Stars will implode. Everything that rises will eventually fall. To use a theological metaphor, gravity is the “original sin,” the main cause of why immortality in this material world is impossible.
Through science, we may all live longer, move faster, achieve ever-greater gravity-defying feats like building taller edifices, or experiencing ever-greater speeds in doing things. But in the end, gravity will still rule. The material effects of everything we do we do will eventually wear down and wither because of gravity.
Gravity makes aging through the years a tough experience. Aging is when the body simply gets tired defying gravity. And so skin sags, facial features droop, a paunch in the tummy develops, the knees weaken and muscles get tired and weak. This alone should give us enough reason to give up and not strive for anything and just go with the deterioration of everything.
And yet, to our credit, we do dare defy entropy each time we can. From the time a person is born, the defiance of entropy and gravity already begins. In fact, we are nurtured, cared for to protect us from harmful exposure of entropy, and raised in a healthy manner to eventually learn to control, manage and live with gravity. As we grow up, we become more skillful at handling these until it almost seems like entropy and gravity do not exist, at least for a time.
All endeavors — athletic, engineering, architectural, medical, cosmetic —everything including the theological and religious constructs of mankind is an attempt to defy gravity and entropy. Think of monuments made in honor of dead men. Think of the promise of eternal life in all religions. To be quite simple, everything we do is about defying the inevitability of death. The not-so-hidden aspiration behind everything we do is to extend life as long as we can in the hope of achieving immortality in some form or another. This brings us to another rule of life which is, life will always try to defy the impossible and the inevitable.
But one might ask, if that is so, then why are we building bombs and manufacturing killing machines? Why are we destroying the planet, or even building anti-human institutions and practices if indeed we are born to defy entropy, gravity and death? Don’t these weapons and practices promote the exact opposite?
These are valid questions to ask. And the answer is simple. Many of those who make bombs and hold the levers of power over the life and death of others do so to assure their own safety and lives. They want to live at all costs even if everyone else must die. They are stuck in some tribal phase with a Them-versus-Us mentality that makes them myopic in their view. Their allegiance is to their inner circle, family, clan, neighborhood, class, nation, sex, ethnic grouping, etc. In short, they have not awakened to the next big thing that mankind must learn, and that is, that we are actually all just one.
While there are dangerous people in the world who launch chemical weapons against their own people, and there exist social structures that degrade women, children and humanity in general, there are reasons not to feel hopeless. If we look at how mankind has evolved during the last 1,000 years, we may see some bright spots.
There was a time when fathers were allowed by law to kill their own children. There was also a time when slavery was okay and seen as a natural state. There was/is discrimination against races, sexes, religious beliefs, etc. True. But more than at any time in our history, these issues are being brought to light and people who believe in their abolition are speaking louder than ever and doing something about them. This is proof that humanity’s consciousness is expanding, evolving.
These advocates, activists, good samaritans and bodhisattvas are doing the job of fighting entropy in the thinking and attitudes of societies still bogged down by their dark histories. These thought leaders have been liberated from the shackles of small tribe thinking and have expanded their identities to include the whole of humanity. They no longer subscribe to primitive values where laws such as an eye for an eye, and survival of the fittest still rule in their most blatant, crude and oppressive forms. They are the ones who are pushing the evolution of humanity upward.
Defying entropy is a heroic human act. And we do it all the time. It means constantly standing against forces that are betting on humanity’s failure. Instead of giving up or folding up against these relentless forces, mankind refuses to go quietly without a fight.
And that is the paradox of being human. We hope against hopelessness. We challenge what seems inevitable. We bet against great odds. We spit on the gods of limitation. Why, because even a brief lifetime in the continuum of space/time when lived with purpose is actually a chance to defy death and push the boundaries of what humans can do.
Like a comet, we shine briefly in the hope that we may be remembered forever, even as the hum of the entropy in the universe continues uninterrupted.