Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Entropy is the plan, the plan is God

The trouble with entropy being God is that He hates concentrations of energy.


John Rember

Lately I've been thinking that entropy is God. It's a reasonable thing to think during the Bush administration, because even though entropy sounds innocent enough—it's a term from classical physics referring to energy loss in any mechanical process—in real life it means the ultimate triumph of waste, rot, corruption and death. The engine of the universe turns organization into chaos. More and more energy does less and less work.

Entropy is what takes that new car you're so proud of and turns it, eight years later, into a rusting hulk in a wrecking yard, its leather seating surfaces vomiting moldy foam and its bumper sticker—In Case of Rapture, This Car Will Be Driverless—peeling and sun-bleached. Entropy takes the concentrated energy of coal and oil and turns it into carbon dioxide and strip malls and traffic jams. Entropy turns pristine mountain valleys into acres of trophy home-mausoleums, whose empty halls harbor only the faint background radiation of security systems and the echoes of forgotten holiday parties, and pictures on the walls of Jack Nicholson as a young man.

Nobody in the physical world escapes entropy, except maybe writers, and we do it in a way that doesn't provide much personal satisfaction. In a century, a faded, flaking copy of the Idaho Mountain Express may be recovered from the ruins of a trophy home, and these words may be readable. The mind that created them will be elsewhere.

So will be the civilization that educated that mind. An academic colleague, a professor of political economics, told me in 2001 that he thought the country could survive four years of George Bush as president, but he didn't think it could survive eight. He's looking more and more like a prophet, because in terms of both classical physics and theology, George Bush is headed for the Entropy Sainthood.

The signs are everywhere. After 9/11, when the country might have reasonably been asked to hunker down and conserve energy for a struggle against the forces of chaos, Bush advised us to go shopping. Instead of leading us toward alternative energy sources, his policies promoted the use of oil and coal, ensuring that more of each burned within the closed system of our atmosphere. He spent half a trillion dollars on the Iraq war, and that money has gone up in smoke and blood rather than going toward the anti-entropic activity of repairing this country's roads, bridges, rail lines, schools, national parks and harbors. Even the justice system, whose inefficiencies are built-in, has been subjected to a political hack-job, which has cost us more energy and given us less justice.

The trouble with entropy being God is that He hates concentrations of energy. Here on Earth, when deposits of oil and natural gas and coal temporarily blocked the smooth dissipation of heat throughout the cosmos, God created humanity in order to get those fuels out of the ground and burn them up, and destroy those pesky photosynthetic organisms that produced them in the first place.

If that isn't enough to worry about, there remains the rapturous sentiment on that fading bumper sticker on your once-new car. God probably isn't going to violate the laws of matter and energy that he so laboriously created during His first work week, especially if he happens to be one of them. When it comes to the rapture he's working with the spirit instead of the flesh, thereby avoiding problems with inertia and faster-than-light travel. Instead of taking physical bodies to heaven, he's just taking souls, which have far less mass and don't take up so much space.

God has raptured millions of humans, and what has been left behind are soulless psychopathic zombies, mere physical bodies and brains walking around without conscience or scruple. It explains serial killers and school shooters and other, more sinister characters.

Somewhere up in heaven are the souls of George Bush and Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and Alberto Gonzales, awkwardly sitting on clouds and strumming harps, smiling nervously and looking in any direction but down, where awful things are being done by the bodies they once inhabited. In a few more ticks of eternity those bodies will be gone, but for now it's an uncomfortable situation. God, of course, understands all this, and reassures them that things are unfolding, and running down on schedule, much according to His plan.

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