Of Life and Entropy

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Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
Of Life and Entropy

March 23, 2016
Hot Springs, VA

"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom."
-Albert Einstein

The S&P closed out Tuesday at $2,049. Gold closed at $1,248 per ounce. Crude Oil closed at $41.22 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 1.94%. Bitcoin is trading around $415 per BTC today.

Dear Journal,

For all of recorded history man has pondered the meaning of life.

I remember grappling with the question myself as a youngster a few short decades ago. Back then I was fully immersed in institutionalized society. That is to say, the majority of my time and energy was spent satisfying the demands and requirements of institutions - a public school in my case.

I distinctly remember the painful bite of the alarm clock going off each morning before the sun had risen and before a growing boy had received adequate rest. I remember dragging myself out of bed and into the shower with only one thought running through my head: I wish it were Saturday! I remember the stress that came with assembling the day's clothing knowing full-well that I would be judged heavily according to my appearance.

I remember the monotony of each morning's commute as I was transported to a place in which my freedoms would be curtailed and my day would be regimented. The only thing I looked forward to each morning was the feeling of liberation that would come with the afternoon's dismissal bell.

I remember the feeling of anxiety as I was herded around the school according to a predetermined schedule to which I had no input, always under the suspicious gaze of patrolling faculty and resource officers - some of whom were rather friendly while some were focused on their own position of authority.

I remember the boredom that came with the mandatory 'memorize and regurgitate' method of schooling. Most of my school work struck me as piecemeal and arbitrary, but the teachers were quick to remind us that the material was required by the standardized tests we would be subjected to at the end of the year. I remember thinking that a more comprehensive understanding would come to me later on in the curriculum if I just faithfully went about my work. So I did... it didn't.

I remember the feelings of confusion and sorrow as I witnessed other children verbally abused and bullied, always for petty reasons typically associated with physical appearance or personality type. Should I intervene according to my conscious or should I laugh with the bullies to improve my own social standing?

More often than not I simply chose the safe middle ground and turned a blind eye to the injustice. This was the diplomatic choice - I could justify my own inaction to injustice by applauding the fact that I did not participate. It was only decades later that I realized the middle ground was a place for cowards in the image of Pontius Pilate.

I remember the feeling of horror I experienced as I witnessed the barbarism of physical violence up close and in person. I still remember the dreadful thud of a fist striking flesh rising above the coarse grunts and moans of two human beings engaged in violence. I was shocked at how some kids were willing to physically harm other kids with seemingly no remorse. I was even more horrified by the fact that most of my schoolmates would cheer on the violence, and the crowd always seemed to root for a favorite.

Yet I was led to believe that this institution held the key to my future. So I quietly and unquestioningly complied with all institutional requirements each week until Saturday brought with it the blessings of Liberty once again. After all, I needed good grades to get into a good college. And I needed to get into a good college to get a good job. And I needed to get a good job to have a successful life. It was pretty simple - all I needed to do was comply.

Within this institutionalized environment I could not find an answer to the meaning of life question. In fact, I came to the conclusion that there was no real meaning. There were only obligations and requirements to be met in order to move on to the next level within the system. First grade led to second grade. Elementary school led to middle school. Middle school led to high school. High school led to college. College led to work. Life was a set of hurdles to be jumped in order to get to the next set of hurdles.

In hindsight I realize now that this lack of defined purpose is what led most students to adopt social status as their life's mission. The lack of defined purpose is almost certainly why some students turned to drugs and alcohol. It is probably why some students were quick to engage in bullying and violence as well. Napoleon Hill's Outwitting the Devil is a great resource for anyone interested in expanding their thinking on this subject. Personally, I spent the majority of my free time on the Internet as a means of escape from institutionalized reality.

My philosophic inquiries and critical thinking capacity had receded by the time I was able to drive a car, however. I simply stopped searching for meaning and took my place within the institutional structure... adopting its rules as my own.

It took me about a decade to wake up from this institutionalized slumber, and it took another half-decade to dig myself out of the mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial hole that came with it.

I now understand why I could not grasp life back in my school days. It's basic thermodynamics, really. A closed system - a system isolated from its surroundings - evolves toward a state of maximum entropy; entropy being the amount of energy not available for work.

The system of compulsory education, which has been thrust upon nearly everyone for one hundred years now, is a closed system... it promotes maximum entropy. It promotes maximum entropy because it leaves students with very little time and energy to explore their own talents, interests, skills, ideas, and passions. In fact, the system directs students away from their own talents, interests, skills, ideas, and passions in many cases. So in effect, the system siphons energy away from work most valuable to the student, and redirects that energy toward work of very little value.

If you are not free to explore your own consciousness, how can you know yourself? How can you internalize a system of personal values and principles? If you are not free to develop your own talents, how can you envision a future of your own choosing? How can you create the life that resonates with your core being?

The answer is you can't. So you adopt institutional values as your own and you live the institutionalized life. And by 'you', I don't mean you... I mean me. That's what I did. I only assume there are many others who have done the same thing under the same circumstances.

A closed system evolves toward a state of maximum entropy. Life reverses entropy.

This can be observed fundamentally at the primal level: living organisms extract nutrients from their environment and they internally assemble and deploy these nutrients in a manner necessary to sustain their life. Every time you take a breath you are reversing entropy; you are taking idle oxygen from the air and employing it to nourish your blood. In a similar manner the acts of eating and drinking are acts of entropy reversal.

Does this mean the meaning of life is to reverse entropy? I don't know... maybe. I don't really dwell on the question. I think it is more important to focus on what life is.

And what life is, is a celebration of creation. I think this is true both of life in nature and of life within human civilization. Creation is everywhere, and it is beautiful.

From my front porch you can watch anywhere from ten to twenty deer gradually emerge from the woods at dusk to explore the fields. There are always fawns energetically hopping out of the woods behind the adult deer. I originally enjoyed watching all manner of birds graze from two bird feeders hanging on a dual-sided pole from my front porch as well. Then a family of bears - a momma and three cubs - knocked down the pole and raided the bird feeders. Creation is beautiful, but I stopped feeding the birds.

My daughter, sweet Madison, was born directly into my hands in the comfort of our home nearly two years ago. I watched her smack her lips for the very first time. I watched her take her very first breath of life. Wife Rachel did the heavy-lifting, of course, but I was intimately involved in the birth process. Creation is beautiful.

Look at the amazing power of creation behind human civilization. Two hundred years ago nearly everyone had to be a farmer just to survive. Then came the Industrial Revolution. Then the Information Revolution. Today, people of even the most modest means in the developed world are far wealthier in standard of living terms than the richest of the rich one hundred years ago. Indoor plumbing, HVAC systems, advanced cooking and refrigeration systems, and all manner of entertainment devices make this no comparison.

Today, everyone carries around a computer in their pocket that is more powerful than computers that filled an entire room several decades ago. These pocket computers enable people to access the entire pool of accumulated knowledge instantaneously. Oh, and they also make phone calls.

The space-age technology we live with today would have been considered magic by our farming ancestors two hundred years ago. Creation is beautiful.

Everyone observes and experiences creation on a daily basis. Art, literature, cinema, symphony, music concerts, trade shows, festivals... they all represent creation. To play on a beautiful golf course is to experience creation. Tasting a robust craft beer is experiencing creation. So is bringing a new product to market. And fine-tuning an email marketing campaign. Cosmetologists, beauticians, and manicurists all deal in the art of creation everyday. Creation is everywhere.

I am especially excited about the digital revolution, peer-to-peer commerce, open source technology, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Open Bazaar. These all represent creation, but they also enable individuals to move away from institutionalized entropy and towards the celebration of life.

Creation promotes life. Life reverses entropy and celebrates creation. It's a beautiful dynamic.

I can't tell you the meaning of life, but I can say with confidence that my life has been much happier, more meaningful, and much more prosperous since I ceased promoting entropy and began to promote life.

I can also say this with confidence: cracks are beginning to form within many institutional systems. A few people can see this already, but most can feel it.

These institutional systems will continue to devolve as we move further into the Information Age, and competing systems will emerge as a result. Indeed, they are already emerging quietly.

This transition will be confusing, painful, and messy; and the Establishment will use heavy-handed measures to prop up its institutions. But the competing systems will prove more successful and gain traction over time for one primary reason: they are constructed to promote life – not entropy.

The seeds of the Second Renaissance are being sowed as we speak, but remember: the Revolution will not be televised...

More to come,

Joe Withrow
Wayward Philosopher

Human systems either promote life or they promote entropy. Find out how to master your finances, gain financial freedom, and structure your affairs in a way that promotes life by enrolling in Finance for Freedom: Master Your Finances in 30 Days today. Over 2,900 people have enrolled in this course and the average rating is 4.8 out of 5.

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