I am swift approaching my 55th birthday, and with that comes a lot of reflection, rumination, trepidation and an indefatigable desire to achieve all I set out to do in life. Hopefully, one day in the distant future, it will be said of me that I did mighty things, strived for great goals and left a worthwhile scratch on the wall of humanity.
Not too long ago, as I began to accept the fact that my youth was fleeting and middle-age encroaching, I adopted a rather grim, sardonic outlook on this mortal coil. Despite my external positivity and damn-the-torpedoes-and-full-speed-ahead bravado, I began to grapple with the grave certainty that I have fewer years ahead than those behind, and that Life was going to afford me no favors. As a matter of fact, it seemed to me that Life, indeed, was a thing much more entropic than I had realized during my misspent youth, and when left to itself, as with all things, it simply decays and fades into nothingness, theological chiasmata notwithstanding.
The greater question I began to face was how to beat the entropy; outrun the quantum tendrils of mortality that seem always to be licking at our heels. The further I got from the happy-go-luckiness of my twenties, the keener became my realization that a thousand years from now, we will all be but dust, and a scant few of our deeds will ever be recalled from future antiquity.
So the trick, I decided, is to identify the anti-entropies in Life, you know, the syntropies that culminate in some sort of thermodynamic representation of dynamic-order-existence, or – in other words – the realization that ‘Life’s a piece of shit when left on its own, it’s what you do with it that really counts and matters.’
Léon Brillouin never spoke more clearly, at least to me, than when he coined the term ‘negentropy,’ that stuff – the negative entropy – that is the exact opposite of entropy. Could it be that there exists a double negative of life? The ‘not not life?’
I suggest that negentropy is that cacophonous vacuum that we fill with all the stuffs of ‘Not Not Life;’ those things we gather and incorporate to keep entropy at bay; the force that seeks to achieve effective organizational behavior and lead us to a steady predictable state of growth away from decay, comprised of the stuffs we identify as being anti-anti-living: children, family, goals, dreams, accomplishment and legacy. What an utter waste of Life it would be to look back and realize that while we were so busy struggling against its shortcomings and decay, Life gave us the slip and passed us by.
We are all a natural part of entropy. The moment we are born we begin the process of decay and degradation to inevitable death. How’s that for a cheery thought? The beauty of it is that we can incorporate negentropy to make it all so much more worthwhile.
To paraphrase Thoreau, I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to take a bite out of Life and suck all the marrow from the bones of Life, putting to death all that was not Life, so that when I came to die, I would not realize that I had not lived.