I often tell people about my encounters with religious zealots who have knocked at my door in the past to tell me about the coming paradise foretold in ancient scriptures: of a time when there will be no wars and no crime; no-one will argue; everyone will love everyone else; our every need will be provided for; peace and tranquillity will reign; and we will be able spend our days in joyous thanksgiving to the Lord. These religious zealots are good people in the main and their intentions are good, however their approach to life and their whole belief system is based upon an unrealistic, childlike premise.
I used to disabuse such people of their foolishness when I was younger and found it a great source of amusement to see them walking away, crestfallen, and disillusioned once the realities of the universe and the contradiction within the scriptures had been pointed out to them, but I recognise now that their belief is not based in logic, but in an emotional desire to feel secure. Their security comes from the belief that a benevolent, paternal God is looking down and will watch over them and care for them, provided they ‘believe’ hard enough.
This approach to life is, as I have said, childishness of the sort that causes young children to link hands in a circle, close their eyes, cross their fingers and toes, and wish really hard for something they want. It is in effect an admission that they have no conception of how to get what they want and so they place their hopes in ‘magic’, and the super-natural. However as life shows us with the news every day: with the wars; the murders; the raping and the looting; the disease; the famine; and the natural disasters that occur, ‘magic’ and the super-natural play no part in reality.
Parents may encourage small children to believe in Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, but we all know such things don’t really exist and for adult human beings to rely upon divine intervention for their future wellbeing is wholly unrealistic and dangerous in the extreme.
Some people with a socialist world view have hoped that where divine intervention falls short of their needs, the state can step in, in the form of social services and provide the safety net that will carry them from the cradle to the grave, but Marxism, Anarchism, Syndicalism and all of the other utopian socialisms also fall short and turn sour due to the same fatal flaw, that of aiming to create a utopia, which is a synonym for paradise, or Shangri-la, in short, a world based upon ‘love’, in which there are no wars; no crime; no-one argues; everyone will love everyone else; our every need will be provided for; peace and tranquillity will reign; and we will be able spend our days in joyous thanksgiving for the boundless wisdom of the Central Committee of the semi-autonomous collective/all-powerful state.
The fatal flaw in these infantile political and religious belief systems is an ignorance of entropy and the significance of the struggle or striving against entropy as central to existence.
The universe, or the Cosmos as I prefer to call it, has been shown by science to be a vast entity that facilitates evolution.
The dawning of the Cosmo saw an explosion of energy particles rushing out in all directions from a central point, and as the eons passed, mere chance caused many of these particles to collide, and sometimes these collisions caused the particles involved to become fused together to form atoms, and some atoms collided and sometimes the atoms became fused creating molecules, and so on. This is how matter came to exist and how eventually large balls of matter came to exist creating the planets and the solar systems that we can see today.
On our particular solar system, and on our particular planet, the conditions that evolved eventually enabled living matter to form and the very simple single celled forms of living matter eventually evolved into higher forms of life and gave birth to mankind and to us.
Despite the evolution of our planet with life on it; the evolution of our solar system and the vast galaxies beyond, we should be cognisant of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the phenomenon of ‘entropy’, which put simply, in the absence of effort to the contrary, causes energy to dissipate and matter to break down into its constituent parts over time.
Viewing the Cosmos in large scale terms, we see the planets, the solar systems and the galaxies continually moving away from each other, spreading themselves more thinly in order to fill the limitless void around us.
Viewing the Cosmos in smaller scale terms, we see the energy of our Sun radiating outwards, warming our planet, but causing what we know to be unsustainable heat-loss for the Sun, such that it will eventually be extinguished, its energy having been dissipated throughout our solar system and beyond.
Viewing our planet alone, we are conscious that matter and heat bubbles to the surface through volcanic activity, causing mountains to form. The heat dissipates due to the cooling effect of our atmosphere and those mountains are eroded, breaking down into rock fragments, gravel, sand and eventually dust, much of which is blown away by the wind.
If we look at our homes, we see that the constant action of the elements causes bricks and cement to eventually crack and crumble; causes wood to eventually rot; and causes metals to eventually corrode, breaking them down into their constituent parts as the energy that originally bound these materials dissipates out into the wider environment and eventually out into space.
If we did not take action, that is expend effort and energy to maintain our homes, they would eventually become dilapidated and collapse in ruins, and eventually those ruins would crumble away, until after thousands of years, nothing is left.
In the same way, if we clear a path through a wood, unless we expend effort and energy to maintain that path, it will become overgrown and it will eventually be reclaimed by the woods.
Wherever we look there is entropy and the only thing that reverses the effect of entropy is effort and the expending of energy. This is why there is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine, because in the absence of effort and the expending of further energy, the energy driving the machine will always run out. Nothing can be in a state of stasis in which it never changes and this is why there is no such thing as ‘the balance of nature’. Nature is inevitably in a constant state of change as a result of entropy and the dissipation of energy.
For a paradise to exist, a Shangri-la in which everything the inhabitants want is provided without effort, so that no-one goes without, no-one is stressed, or worried, or ever in conflict over finite resources, a situation of stasis would be required, in which nothing ever changes.
We Europeans are often criticised because of our striving for more and our striving to push forward frontiers and advance civilisation, and our critics point to peoples in a less advanced state of development and ask, why we cannot live as they do, ‘in balance’ with nature – in harmony with their environment?
The answer of course is that even where it appears there is a ‘balance of nature’ or that someone is living ‘in balance with their environment’, the process of entropy will continue and that temporary appearance of ‘harmony’ will come to an end. Furthermore, in the attempt to live in ‘harmony’, the people of this temporary ‘paradise’ will need to live their lives in a state of stasis, in which their lives never change. They will not be able to change, because the moment they change, the ‘balance’ and the ‘harmony’ of their lives and of their existence will be disturbed.
Such people, the natives of the Amazonian jungle for example, have therefore paid a heavy price for their millennia spent in paradise. They have lived each day exactly as they lived the day before, they have limited their families so that their numbers remain in harmony with their environment and they have lived their lives exactly as their forebears lived their lives, and they have remained trapped in a stone age existence, with stone age technology.
Despite not seeking contact with the outside world, the outside world has relentlessly come to meet them and disturb their idyllic way of life, and the peoples of the Amazon are unable to compete and are powerless to stop the destruction of their paradise.
The price we pay for utopia is the loss of progress, and the price we pay for the loss of progress is that we are unable to compete with others who have progressed and who have vastly more advanced technology.
Some may say, but if all mankind lived in harmony with our environment, there would be no-one to disturb and destroy and we could all live in bliss, as children of the world! However, if mankind did attempt this, there will be advanced life forms evolving on other planets in other solar system and other galaxies, and sooner or later, it is inevitable that they would come knocking on our door and they would be the ones with the vastly more advanced technology and we would be the hapless victims of their inevitable colonisation of our planet.
Another essential element of our struggle and our striving, is the struggle to overcome those who compete with us for the finite resources of this planet. In the absence of effort in this respect, we will simply be displaced, marginalised and driven into extinction by those who do strive and who strive to overcome us and have what we have for themselves.
Life is the process of striving to overcome entropy. In the absence of striving we will eventually suffer the fate of the Amazonian natives and find that our paradise is short lived.
Each one of us must strive to provide, so that we and our kind can live and can advance. We must strive to overcome competition for scarce resources; we must strive to overcome competition for work; we must strive to earn enough so that we can marry and reproduce; we must strive to feed and clothe our children; we must strive to maintain the fabric of our homes; we must strive to protect our land; and to advance our civilisation, and so on.
There is an old saying, ‘when we arrive at our goal, we arrive at our grave’, and therefore we must strive and when we achieve what we have striven for in the past, we must strive to achieve more.
We can never look forward to a time in which there will be no struggle and no striving. Entropy is relentless and so our struggle and our striving must also be relentless, and we should embrace this and learn to enjoy the struggle, for it is the essence of life, it is the engine of creation and without it we face decline and inevitable extinction at the hands of a superior foe.
If we succeed in our struggle however, if we increase our numbers, improve our technology; advance our civilisation and colonise, first our solar system and then the Cosmos beyond, our children and descendants beyond them will have a wonderful future the like of which we can only imagine.
Let us look to the future with steely determination, with confidence and with hope in our hearts!
By Max Musson © 2016
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