Entropy, Dissolution and Integration | Identity Renewal

There are two general directions for humankind to go:

-< toward expansion | toward contraction >-

Those terms define a continuum that is an obvious metaphor for breathing as for life.

However, another sense of direction, another kind of continuum of life, is possible:

toward dissolution | toward integration

Human development and the rise and fall of civilizations move between these two poles:
  1. dissolution
  2. integration

These terms have to do with a universal process that underlies all of life-experiences:


Some describe entropy as a measure of disorder in a system.  The thinking is that a high-order system, whether a human being, an ecosystem, or a galactic cluster, has a certain amount of energy that it expends during its lifetime.  Energy moves from its "useful", available state to its "used", unavailable state.

Great balls o'fire!
The Universe is Runnin' Down!

Well, there's another way of describing entropy, more akin to our immediate experience.

It's the movement toward differentiation.

There's a special meaning to that word.  It means the appearance of new things that are different from the old things.  Newfangled vs. oldfangled.  Also, extant vs. emergent.


Diversity among things means diversity of the states
of things.  More stuff doing different stuff.  New stuff coming from new combinations of the old stuff.  Chemistry.  Science, The Information Explosion -- and subsequent information glut.  Culture clashes.  Social turmoil.  Politics.

More of everything diversifying.

That's another measure of entropy -- and -- another aspect of the Expanding Universe.

Bringing it back down to earth, it means that the unexpected happens.  New problems.  New solutions. New developments.  More and more of it.

Formerly unified and coherent features of experience, such as a harmonious social order free of Communists, atheists or sexual deviants -- or economic good times for oil men, money-men, chemical companies, or entrenched dictators, undergo unexpected changes, requiring human beings to undergo related unexpected changes.  Things break down.  They disintegrate.  Very unpopular among some, and everyone is affected, more or less.  Change.

And out of the debris of disintegration, a new order forms.  The general trend, in Universe, is for the new order that forms to consist of a higher, more finely tuned, and better-adapted integrity.  We can trace that kind of change by looking at the fossil record, as well as by looking at the extant biosphere.  We can trace it by looking at the path of civilization.  We can trace it by looking at the development of the Kosmos.

Entropy is not the running down of the Universe; it's the running of the Universe. As Buckminster Fuller put it, "doing more and more with less and less" -- until at last, doing absolutely everything with absolutely nothing -- which is how the Universe began.

More states of existence emerge as things move from "usable" to "used", from running to broken-down to newly integrated.  That's a definition of entropy.  The "used" side of things is the material for the next generation of "usables" -- one way or the other, whether by bacteria or by recycling programs.  Conditions require a higher, more functional integrity.  As things change, we must change.

Entropy, confronting us with unexpected disintegration, requires us to integrate in a new way.  Entropy drives us.

That's one half of the picture.

The other half is, what of all the human faculties that are not needed by the current state of affairs?  This includes all the ways we've learned and adopted, in the past, all inherited cultural development, all the old-time, traditional ways we remember that don't help the new integration.  What happens to them?

If they don't take over, there is a healthy alternative:  they dissolve, or at least become much looser.

In psychological language, habits are allowed to become extinct, and what was uptight becomes more laid back.  Groovy.

The extinction of, or liberation from, The Unnecessary liberates resources for application into The New Necessary integration for new conditions, as they emerge.  [Thomas Hanna's book, Bodies in Revolt, comes to mind.]  The caterpillar dissolves before integrating into the new form, we call a butterfly.


The biggest challenge human beings face is that of letting go of the old well enough to become the new.  Memory is the key.  The Old sticks around because it is tenaciously Remembered, as a matter of survival or convenience.

What if what we remembered could be brought under our own control?  What if we could make internal adjustments that kept the old ways available, but not longer in control, so we are free enough to change as we see fit, instead of remaining stuck in unresolved quandaries?

What if there were something we could do to make room for new insights, new understanding, new ways of doing things, new ways of seeing things?  What if the elements of new ability were already present, but we couldn't bring ourselves to act in a new way?  What if we couldn't see them?

Well, what, if we could?

What if our very sense of identity prevented it?

What if we could shape our own identity, over time, through healthy dissolution of old patterns and new integration into healthier patterns?


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