Entropy and Adam

“Microscopic disorder (entropy) of a system and its surroundings (all of the relevant universe) does not spontaneously decrease.|” This is one of the definitions of Entropy. It is also the hope and salvation of the parent, facing the crying baby. Patience must ride entropy over a few rough spots, and if you hum or make shushing sounds while this is happening, all the better.

Entropy, of course, implies order. And order implies a certain form of vision. In Rudolf Arnheim’s Art and Entropy, he takes shuffling cards as a double-sided act – on the one hand, increasing the disorder in a pack of cards, and on the other hand, equalizing the chances of the players – which of course is an imperative that only makes sense in terms of the order of the game.

“This will become clearer if I refer to another common model for the increase of entropy, namely shuffling. The usual interpretation of this operation is thatby shuffling, say, a deck of cards one converts an initial order into a reasonably perfect disorder. This, however, can be maintained only if any particular initial sequence of cards in the deck is considered an order and if the purpose of the shuf_ing operation is ignored. Actually,
of course, the deck is shuf_ed because all players are to have the chance of receiving a comparable assortment of cards. To this end, shuffling, by aiming at a random sequence, is meant to create a homogeneous distribution of the various kinds of cards throughout the deck. This homogeneity is the order demanded by the purpose of the operation. To be sure, it is a low level of order and, in fact, a limiting case of order because the only structural condition it fulfills is that a sufficiently equal distribution shall prevail throughout the sequence.|”

In other words, disorder can actually be the ruse of order. This is at the heart of the artistic instinct. Perhaps something like this is also happening when I take Adam up and repeat something to him over and over while walking and rocking him. Sometimes, this work. I repeat tout va bien so often that even to me, the phrase becomes sheer comforting sound. Adam – sometimes – ceases to cry, and begins to look around him. Or to burble. What I am aiming at, though, is that glassy look and the heavy eyelid. In effect, I am in the process of shuffling, of transiting between one order and the other.

At other times, this doesn’t work at all. I will say for Adam that he is, on the whole, a wise babe, and if he is crying or awake, there is a reason for it. Sometimes, however, the reason is simply that he has been crying or has been awake. At these points, the lapse into disorder is hard to contain. The ruses fail. However, eventually Adam will sleep, and so will I. It is simply a question of time. Adam’s strength, here, is that the question of time is a lot different for him than for me. For me, every day that passes is in proportion to what now seems like a mountainous sum of days. For Adam, every day that passes is in a very sensible proportion to the amount of time he has been scanning the planet – around five weeks, or 35 days. Thus, the minute is a huger and more monumental thing to his instincts than to mine. He has more riding, or so he thinks, on the minute. My strength is that, when I wrest myself from the tedious hurry of the screen or the deadline, I can look back and see that I’ve never really been hurt by taking more time to do things. Thrust into the mechanical world where every contact is measured, the traffic is dangerous, the work is relative to inflexible turnaround times, I am aware – especially holding Adam – that this world is essentially exterior to me.