A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about thermodynamics. Specifically, I was thinking about…
It was chilly when our team showed up last Sunday to set up for service. It felt like winter had finally arrived in the new year — one of those crystal clear, blue sky, icy Albuquerque mornings. We gathered in a circle to center together, holding hands, before beginning our work. There were some cold hands in that circle!
So my prayer was a call for warmth. For warmness to flow where it was needed — from our hearts to our extremities, from one to another, from the heater inside and the sun outside to flow to anyone and everyone needing some extra radiance.
It occurred to me in the middle of this extemporaneous invocation that I was describing a natural physical process, one of the laws of thermodynamics. How heat moves automatically from hot spots to cold ones. I’m not a scientist, so I asked my scientist friend Bryn what I was talking about, and she told me, “Entropy.”
Entropy is the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. It’s how we make water boil by putting it on a stove. The molecules and atoms from the heat source speed up and bump into the molecules and atoms of the pot which bump into the molecules of the water, and so on… It just happens automatically because concentrated energy, like heat, naturally moves into the things and spaces around it. It works with holding hands, too.
I really like that. I like it both as an actual physical process and as a metaphor. I like how energy, radiance, warmth, and light effortlessly flow wherever they are needed. Maybe metaphorically and metaphysically we can extend this idea to include other qualities — clarity, wisdom, intelligence, kindness, compassion — and envision those gleaming outward, gracefully…
For me this is a key benefit of community, of coming together — recognizing that we’re contributing to and partaking of a shared system. We’re plugging in to the “grid.” When any one of us has a surplus of anything (heat, energy, ideas, patience), the rest of us can partake of the overflow and experience enough-ness, even if we don’t happen to be generating it on our own in that moment. And we’re all sharing different juice in different amounts at different times, keeping the whole thing dynamic and alive. That’s how it flows.
But if you look up “entropy” in the dictionary, after you slog through all of the scientific thermodynamic definitions, you find: the tendency toward chaos and disorder, decline and degeneration.
Dagnabbit. My pretty metaphor falls a little flat when you put it like that.
I know it’s just another way of portraying the same process. Tomato, tomahto. Glass half-full or half-empty. Energy concentrated in one spot tends to dissipate to other spots. A hot coal dropped into a bucket of ice isn’t going to stay hot — it’ll warm up some of the ice and then everything will eventually reach more or less the same temperature unless additional energy (heat, work) is applied. Got it.
But does this describe the beautiful sharing of my innate warmth, or is that someone’s frigid hands drawing the precious heat out of my molecules? Maybe this is where the meta-physics of it comes in.
Because while we obviously have physical being and the laws of physics do apply to these material bodies, we aren’t just closed systems with a finite amount of energy that will ultimately burn out once and for all. At least I believe that we’re more than that. To me, it seems clear that we’re participating in something infinitely renewable; that we are generators of boundless life beyond the merely physical — emotional, intellectual, relational, imaginative energies…
Again, we plug in to this living power grid most effectively by and through and with each other. Of course we can commune with the Infinite in solitude, and it’s important sometimes to recharge on our own…
AND — the back-and-forth, self-perpetuating current of our creative energy is most dynamic in our togetherness. It’s most palpable and powerful when we’re reminded that we always have something to share and something to receive.
When I’m feeling befuddled, clarity can pour into me from you and from Life Itself, from us together. And vice-versa. When one of us is feeling shaky, strength can flow in from wherever it is to wherever it’s needed. Connection, when I’m feeling lonely. Beauty, when I’m feeling overwhelmed by ugly things. Joy, when we’re broken-hearted.
Thank you, my friends. I love that we get to share in all this vitality, this flowing aliveness. Ups and downs, depletion and refills, chaos and collaboration. We’re entropys in a pod, is what we are.
I can’t wait to be with you this Sunday, 10:00am, at Maple Street Dance Space. I know that everyone’s navigating ongoing viral variations in our own ways, so I do want to remind you that we can stay connected even if we don’t feel comfortable in physical proximity. Our energetic flow isn’t bound by time and space! Please join us for our monthly Zoom prayer call, first Thursdays at 7:00pm (here’s the link). You can also tune in to a recording of my talk each week — here on the website (bosquecsl.org) by Sunday evening. And do not hesitate to reach out if you’re feeling out of the loop or disconnected — I would love to hear from you.
©2022 Drew Groves