That it blows,
And goes!” ~ Willa Cather
Rejoice, even in entropy…in darkness, in the entirety of the cyclical nature of birth, death and regeneration. It is easy to find Beauty in the part of the cycle that is about coming into existence, growth and discovery — less so on the other end: decay, dissolution and non-existence. But that does not mean the harmony and serenity of Beauty are not there.
When a truth rusts, a companion betrays or your sanctuary crumbles it is time to dig into your well of courage and recognize that the cycle is evolving. Call it Winter, transition, shadow or death — whatever resonates with you. It is a necessary part of the only constant: change; what I think of as the order>chaos>order cycle.
Our modern culture has tried to bury this inevitability in layers of illusion. In earlier centuries humans tried to tame change with things like “tradition” and “norms.” In our current techy times, change occurs so rapidly that our collective head spins, societal illusions fade and new ones form on our screens.
And, as chaos theory teaches, it is not chaos that falls from some mysteriously previous order, but order that spews forth from the primeval chaos. The Isness gloriously and unashamedly starts with a messy, unorganized clamor.
In our lives we cycle through various versions of this many times before the death of our physical bodies. Our spirit and personality grows and stretches, withers and shrinks at turns. We succeed, we fail. Sometimes we just coast. Martial arts teach us: to not be broken we must bend. There is cacophony that amazingly returns to harmony. Our bodies begin to decompose. Some believe this only happens to each individual human once, others believe it happens repeatedly.
Whether you believe in reincarnation or salvation, the real struggle is to do all of this messy part of living with grace, to honor the entropic nature of systems, and find the Wabi Sabi elements in the transitional tableau of degradation, impermanence, change, uncertainty and the eventual emergence of what will be.
If we honor the entropy that occurs in our lives rather than resist it, if we befriend it rather than demonize it we will take a long step away from fear towards serenity, toward harmony and the Way of Beauty, in the here and the now.
To Practice Honoring Entropy:
1) Expect it. Since the cycle of birth-death-rebirth is inherent in all living systems, don’t pretend ti will not be an integral part of your experiences. Plan for it even!
2) Think compost, not mere garbage. If it is your life circumstances that are decaying and beginning to stink, look for ways the situation might be fodder for the future. If everything is collapsing, is it time to build anew — or plant trees?
3) Allow for “liminal space.” The transitory time between then & now, before & after. It is that healing time, for scarring over. For the field to lie fallow. Don’t try to repair/rebuild/reconnect right away. The result will be weak and/or ill-conceived.
4) During the sweeter parts of the cycle, practice honing your abilities to be responsive and flexible in the face of change. Notice those circumstance requiring dissolution of some sort (even if it is simply a gardening cycle or refreshing something in your home) and be mindful (oh, that word!) of how you respond and handle it. (For instance: I hate tearing out plants to make way for a new gardening season; it doesn’t matter if they are weakly blooming, way dead, or what — I resist that part of the process. Hmmm…)
There is no doubt that entropy is also a gateway to true Ugliness (which we have not yet discussed in this blog yet). But we cannot allow our thinking and perceptions to fall into “auto pilot” on the nature of decay, death and ugliness any more than we can about birth, life and beauty. Learning to truly appreciate the full cycle is part of The Way of Beauty.
“The pain passes, but the beauty remains.” ~ Pierre Auguste Renoir