entropy & the second law of pizza

There were a hundred reasons not to go to the PigHog poetry slam last night, the biggest one being fear.

I’m not a natural performer. Just about every time I’ve ever waited to go on stage, in a play, or in a band, or a room full of people, I’ve always had the same overwhelming feeling of dread. Not just butterflies, but one giant, robotic butterfly, in mirror shades, who hypnotises me with its gaudy wings as it plunges its proboscis through my chest. Kinda.

I imagine I’d feel just as anxious if I was standing by an open door, back of a plane at 10,000 feet, brave thumbs up, dry smile, waiting for the green light. But in lieu of a generous gift voucher this Christmas (hint, hint) I might never know for sure.

The other reasons not to go were huddled together under that miserable, flapping canvas marked GENERAL MISGIVINGS, being apathy & laziness, fear of change, fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of what other people think – basically fifteen types of fear, all with the same nose and unsettling laugh. The other reasons were harder to identify because they kept moving around and hiding under leaves &c.

All these feelings lumped together into one big feeling of resistance, so strong it felt like a natural principle rather than simply a desire to stay on the sofa and watch TV. So I thought I’d read up about entropy, to see if that might throw some (dark) light on the matter. Or some dark matter on the light.

I’d better come clean here. My understanding of entropy is as miserable as my understanding of physics generally, which is to say, from my point of view, everything pretty much happens by magic. If I make the day without choking, falling over or blinding myself by reaching up to touch the sun, well then, that’s a good day and I’m a fortunate man.

The First Law of Thermodynamics seems to say (and I’m paraphrasing): Energy cannot be created or destroyed but is interchangeable. Which is fine, but it immediately makes me wonder where the original energy came from. The Big Bang I suppose. The kind of scientific idea that would look good in crayon on sugar paper. But the Big Bang couldn’t have come out of nowhere, because – well – see the beginning of this paragraph. So…erm….

Moving on.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics seems to be – BASICALLY – the mechanism by which the universe knows where it’s going (spoiler alert: DOWN). Disorder is the natural state of things, so any ordering that goes on needs energy to initiate and maintain it. Therefore the direction of travel is from disorder to order, and this is Time’s Arrow, which is a nice thing for a universe to have, given the restrictions. But then – wouldn’t it be a bent arrow? Travelling from disorder, to order, back to disorder again?

None of this is easy. In my case it’s just a blatant attempt to draw attention – using inappropriate and ill-considered scientific references – to the effort it took me to go from a disordered sofa state to an orderly appearance at the Pig Hog poetry slam.

Once I forced myself to go, I really enjoyed it. The universe may well be tending towards chaos (it feels like that most days reading the paper), but last night was brilliant. I met some lovely people and heard some great poetry. I’ll certainly be going again – and to other slams – to work on improving my writing and my stage technique.

So up yours, entropy. I’m hanging on to Time’s Arrow by my fingertips and loving it. And I’m absolutely fired up to write a poem about black holes – once I’ve made some pizza and seen if there are any new films on Netflix.

PigHog on Facebook
Thanks to Farnam Street blog for trying to educate me about entropy. (Great blog, btw).

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