Entropy and me

Since childhood, I’ve always been overly concerned not to allow anything entrusted to me to be damaged.

When I first saw a micrograph of the surface of a polished mirror, it was a revelation. What the hell were all those ridges and plateaux doing on a perfect, flat shiny surface?

The world wasn’t actually as perfect as it appeared – it seemed sometimes as if a big fraction of that damage was somehow my fault. Talking of things that were damaged makes me ponder why on earth I was so uptight about imperfection. Well it’s not exactly obscure is it? That’s what happens when gifts, symbols of love, take its place.

We are talking about the boy who wouldn’t crease his shoes or allow his neck zipper to lie asymetrically. The boy who stopped building model tanks because he couldn’t be absolutely sure of the details of the springclips on the rear decking of an M4A3E8 Sherman…details that could barely be seen by the naked eye on the full size, 40-ton vehicle.

Even today, I get a sick feeling if anything given to me new becomes somehow slightly damaged…it causes me disproportionate but irrational grief. Probably something to do with childhood insecurity and related to my ongoing need to check four times that the front door’s locked…even if I’m on the inside.

There is no evading the effects of Entropy.

“Energy spontaneously disperses from being localized to becoming spread out if it is not hindered from doing so. Entropy is merely the way to measure the energy that disperses or spreads out in a process”.

This tendency for everything, even the hardest, shiniest, best protected, most perfect of artifacts to be degraded by erosion, impact, staining, scratches, oxidation -it’s seemingly unavoidable. Sic transit gloria mundi.

It’s certainly not as if I’m that organised…my stuff is routinely found in heterogeneous piles surrounding my littered desk. I regularly file things under ‘Official’, ‘Misc’ or ‘Other’…disorder is fine: it’s just neglectful damage that gets under my skin.

All of this makes enjoying ownership difficult. Things become a burden, since they require such vigilance to protect them from the kind of minor damage and defacement which would provide evidence of my neglect, my lack of diligence. The way I taught myself to manage this perpetual fear is to treat my stuff with ‘reasonable care’… as long as I haven’t actually been careless, I can attribute responsibility for such crimes to ‘normal wear and tear’…no more searing guilt, but the anxiety itself is never blunted.

This is what makes software so great for me. It exists in a realm which is immune from entropy (yes, I know the disks will be damaged by time, but the content is copiable without error…and can therefore stay one step ahead of the big E.)

I also try never to forget that some things get better with age…jeans, cellos, wine, Janet Leigh.