Sand castles in the desert

Amongst the most stimulating things about Second Life is that it can literally open your social door to people that you’d likely never encounter in First Life. People with all sorts of strengths, weaknesses, tastes, opinions, cultures and backgrounds… and timezones.

That tenderly sardonic, laugh out loud funny, assumption-challenging American you met in the bar that one Saturday? She’s just getting off her teaching job as you’re stumbling off to bed.

That quietly confident, witty, brilliantly knowledgable Aussie you met while sunning yourself at the nude beach? He’s just finishing his ham and eggs before dashing off to tackle AM rush hour traffic as you’re enjoying your first cup of red wine with dinner.

That wildly seductive, lustrously shiny spark that you simply can’t get enough of? She’s temporarily off work from her regular late night shifts in that bar in Austria, but don’t worry, she’ll be online for just over an hour while you’re winding down your work day.

I suppose you could do what comes easy and refuse to get close to the temporarily available, the subject to change, and the potentially lost.

Hell, what’s the use of any kind of emotional attachment when you know it’ll be shortlived? Why suffer the inevitably painful end when you can simply enjoy the risk-free beginning? Why have, when you can lose?

Yet, there’s a undeniable freedom that follows the acceptance that there is an impermanence to all things.

The tyranny of effort says that all things come to an end.

Might it be that this was what Yeat’s was getting at when he wrote his “Second Coming” (aka Judgement Day aka The end of the world as we know it)?

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

But it needn’t be all a nihilistic acceptance of the finite. While accepting that “Things fall apart“, you could agree with Tennyson that “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”.

Again, the tyranny of effort rears it’s ugly head.

Aren’t we just tiny grains of sand on an infinite beach just waiting to be moved together? What are we, but beautifully formed, minutely temporary, ephemeral structures of hopes and dreams? Are we anything but unique results of immeasurable explosions of neuro-chemicals that make us who we are?

Like sand castles in the dessert, these chance relationships don’t happen by the themselves, they are hard, and they are undeniably temporary.

Kansas was right: things fall apart and our handsomely architected plans are nothing but “dust in the wind“…

I close my eyes
only for a moment
and the moment’s gone
all my dreams
pass before my eyes a curiosity
dust in the wind
all we are is dust in the wind…

Impermanence. But, we can give thanks to Trooper for giving us the permission to enjoy the castles while they’re still intact…

We’re here for a good time,
not a long time,
so have a good time
the sun can’t shine everyday…

And, if that wasn’t enough, we needn’t go any further than Professor Brian Cox. A man who is blessed with not only stunningly good looks but also the brains that tend to avoid those with stunningly good looks.

Here he reveals how a sandcastle reveals the end of all things. My favourite part starts is at 3:00. Like much of what Brian says, while simply conveyed, it is so stupendously profound that it deserves to be listened to, written, read and re-read to capture its full significance:

Now imagine I was to leave this castle in the desert all day. Then, it’s obvious what’s going to happen. The desert winds are going to blow the sands around and this castle is going to disintegrate. It’s going to become less ordered. It’s going to fall to bits.
But, think about what’s happening on a fundamental level. The wind is taking the sand off the castle and blowing it over there somewhere and making a sand pile. There’s nothing fundamental in the laws of physics that says that the wind couldn’t pick up some sand from over here, deposit it here, and deposit it in precisely the shape of a sand castle…
In principle, the wind could spontaneously build a sandcastle out of the pile of sand…
There is no reason why that couldn’t happen, it’s just extremely, extremely unlikely because there are very few ways of organising this sand so that it looks like a castle…
It’s overwhelmingly more likely, that when the wind blows the sand around, it will take the low entropy structure, the sand castle and turn it into a high entropy structure, the sand pile.
So, entropy always increases. Why is that? Because it’s overwhelmingly more likely that it will.
It seems incredible that a law that says that sand castles don’t spontaneously form on the wind could solve one of the deepest mysteries in physics.
But by saying entropy always increases, the second law of thermodynamics is able to explain why time only runs in one direction.

Might it be that life, in a way, is all about embracing the entropy of the temporarily available?

Might it be that it’s in the tyranny of effort that we live?

Might it be that life is short, and disordered, and hard, and we can only be grateful for the moments we have made the effort to create together?

Another red pill to swallow.

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