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Entropy: A Rite of Passage
“Only entropy comes easy.”- Anton ChekhovEn-tro-py n. pl. en-tro-pies inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.- The American Heritage® DictionaryMy father, a retired Lutheran minister, once shared with me a basic axiom to end an adolescent argument I was trying to impose on him. I had learned recently about the theory of “entropy” in college, which explained so much of life to me and why organized religion truly was, as Marx wrote, “…the opiate of the people.” What’s the point of striving, I reasoned, if earnings were spent to create expense? Why buy new cars if they rusted? Why bind friends with hoops of steel if friendships faded and even family grew forgetful and distant over time? Why put energy into dreams when most, at best, were the self-absorbed ramblings of those looking to escape lives of tedium?Yep, I was the stereotypical 18-year-old preacher’s kid who looked at life from the outside in, bereft of any show of emotion and wondering, for the most part, how believers could believe the eternal hoax. It was a dry, dusty, stubborn position, but it was uniquely mine. I know, I’ve lived it for over 30 years.Recently, at the request of my sister, who suggested that I might not have many more opportunities to visit dad, I traveled the 750 miserable miles from Kansas to Michigan amidst the icy and snow blown highways to visit my 86-year-old father. I was warmed, though, when he greeted me by rising from his recliner and quickly wrapping his arms around me into a tight bear hug. A further surprise came when he kissed me square on the lips, which, believe me, isn’t characteristic of an old Swede. I tried my best not to cry, though the urge was overwhelming. And for the life of me, I can’t explain now why it was so important not to cry at the time. Old habits, as they say, die hard.I learned earlier from family that he was fast slipping into the onset of dementia and was often depressed at his feeble state, where injections of bone cement, physical therapy and a walker were recurring companions.I didn’t know how much longer I could bide the length of my visit with simple pleasantries, so after awhile I asked if he remembered our old argument – that of an 18-year-old first confronting the cherished beliefs of his father. Dad didn’t have the details perfect and I had to cue him in a bit, but his delivery was the same as 31 years earlier. He didn’t dwell on scriptures, nor did he deliver some bromide about salvation through sin. All he said was, “Son, here’s my take on entropy: we’re born to die and that’s life’s greatest paradox.”The first time he said it, I accepted it as a victory to the theory of entropy. We’re born to die. How more blatant could he be? So on with the life of a teenager who truly was more intelligent than his parents. Someday, of course, they would catch up and we would become more in tune with each other.But this time I understood more clearly. His face had aged, but the eyes maintained the same look of mischief about them. Yes, we’re born to die, he acknowledged, but that’s because we’re just passing through…to a better life.Ah! So maybe I got this entropy thing all wrong after all. Instead of waiting for my parents to catch up, it was my parents waiting for me. Okay, so I had it in reverse. Instead of a steady progression into ultimate deterioration and death, the longer we live the more alive we become.Talk about paradoxes.In the words of Mark Twain, “Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen."http://worldonline.media.clients.elli...