• Martha Clark Scala

Making Peace with Entropy

Updated: Oct 4, 2019


May, 2017


Entropy. The timing was perfect when I saw this ten-dollar word in a poignant novel by author John Green, Looking for Alaska. Entropy, a noun that is used to describe a concept in physics, also occurs in life beyond science and it is rather daunting. The philosophy teacher in John Green’s novel put it bluntly: “Things fall apart.”

Do you ever bump up against a trend toward disorder? If you are a gardener, you surely know what I mean. Without vigilant attention, a garden gets messy, overgrown, and sometimes even chaotic. If you throw your all into a creative project, or a work deadline, other parts of your life may take a back burner. Have you noticed how this results in varied degrees of chaos or disorder? (If you haven’t, please tell me what your secret strategy is, okay?)

Entropy is the bane of those who like things orderly. We can wish it away but each time I read the definition of the word in my online dictionary, the inevitability of entropy registers more deeply. So if we cannot make it disappear, how do we find joy in spite of entropy? I got an answer from the protagonist in Looking for Alaska.

“When you stopped wishing things wouldn’t fall apart,

you’d stop suffering when they did.”

It sounds so damn simple but it really isn’t. I have been a lifelong student in this course of learning to live with what is, and letting go of how you wish it was or could be. I am still so far from getting an A on the final exam. I’ve learned some of this course’s concepts, such as the Serenity Prayer and the wise advice in “expectations are premeditated resentments.”

Maybe it is asking too much to expect our suffering to go away if we just stop wishing things wouldn’t fall apart. Maybe there’s a crucial middle step.

  1. I accept that things will fall apart.

  2. I do not have to like this truth, and I give myself permission to have my feelings about this.

  3. By allowing myself to have those feelings and express them rather than trying to take the fast train to acceptance, maybe my overall suffering will diminish.

So, how to make peace with entropy? We rejoice in the return of the sun in spring, but perhaps we would take it for granted if we hadn’t had a rainy, snowy or bleak winter. Likewise, perhaps our moments of joy are enhanced by the dark times of suffering. Maybe we pass this exam by accepting that suffering is part of life, and maybe our suffering needs more air time rather than suppression. We might get an A on this course’s final exam by remembering the old adage that affirms “the only way out is through.”


Comments on this blog post are welcome — see the bottom of this page.

Prompts for Joy

Click here in anticipation of Mother’s Day this month. Warning: you might need a hankie.

Click here for a “bear-y” entertaining two-minute boogie.

(Thanks for spotting this, Cassie Murray!)

Click here for all previous Prompts for Joy.

Pictured Above

April showers bring astounding May roses here in Palo Alto, CA.