Saturday, December 11, 2004

Entropy and Reality TV

Today I am in a flurry creating order in my home and in my life. As much as I enjoy the boisterous, lively clutter in which I generally live, sometimes I crave the plain lines of unadorned surfaces. It’s not that dust and dog hair bother me; sadly, they do not. But when they are gone, I enjoy glowing wood surfaces, along with clean wool and cotton aromas. It’s never completely clean around here (entropy rules!), but I enjoy living at the other end of the clutter spectrum even for a little while.

It’s sad to see the self-flagellation of willing victims on the current crop of makeover shows. Whether it is straight guys submitting to the will of Queer Eye in the hope of becoming cool or overwrought homemakers exposing their overstuffed closets and spare rooms to the clutter busters of Clean Sweep, the participants show an appealing wish to break out of old behaviors and try something new, something hopeful. To me, the Fab Five sometimes sound just plain bitchy as they opine whether their newly cool, madeover guys will be able to keep doing mousse. And surely, just because that poor woman owned twelve pairs of red sneakers—because you never know when you might want something just a little different—surely, it was not necessary to make her cry.

I would like to see the makeover show in which a tightly controlled homemaker with a pristine designer house is encouraged to put her kids’s drawings on the refrigerator and let the puppy on the furniture. I would like to see her asked to repeat after a chubby and cheerful earth mama who has never seen the inside of a salon, “I’m so proud of your work, honey. How did you think to make the sky that gorgeous tangerine color?” and “Oh sweetie. I am upset you broke my favorite lamp, but it’s only stuff.” I would like to see the organizational demon corporate manager who is schooled to let two unscheduled events into each and every day, perhaps coming to realize that human emotion occurs in the workplace as well as everywhere else.

Perhaps, though, we can figure out how to avoid guilt tripping anyone who takes a step into unfamiliar territory and instead celebrate their bravery. Perhaps.

For those of us who are accustomed to living on pendulum swings from social to private, clear to cluttered, organized to chaotic, reckless to thoughtful, predictable to erratic, perhaps we can step out in other ways. Perhaps we can expand the amplitude of the pendulum swing. Or maybe try spending more concentrated time at one end of the swing, the more unfamiliar one. While the so-called natural world does not allow for suspension of the laws of physics, our internal lives need not be so constrained.

I love the concept of entropy, the idea that the universe is constantly, unavoidably falling apart. Somehow knowing that makes all the disorder not so much my fault. Age, rust, decay, all take their toll on the sharp lines, the perfect shapes we see around us. The trend can’t be halted.

But more, I love hope. Hope tells us that new life creeps in, sometimes in the most unlikely ways. It’s all part of that eternal battle of death and life, dark and light, battles in which neither partner fully exists without the engagement of the other. Think about it: if it were never dark, we would not know what light looked like. As much as I hate the darkness when autumn days draw short, I love moonlight on snow. As much as I hate the gray/brown stickiness of mud season, I love the bright green shoots of new plants pushing up to the sun.


Robert said...

Ah, entropy. I remember when it was first explained to me in college thermodynamics. I remember the shock it was to my system when I realized it always has a positive value. I must have said something to the prof, or he must have seen it in my face. I don't remember what he said exactly, but it was something to the effect that entropy has no units and is just a mathematical side effect of lost energy. Or something like that. Maybe I should drag out that old thermo textbook and refresh my memory.

As for reality TV, I don't watch it. One of the best ways to keep me away from something is to make it popular. Just a bit of social contrariness on my part, I guess.

It seems to me that reality TV is about suckers who allow themselves to be put in unreal situations in front of TV cameras. I can never tell is real life is more exciting or more boring than TV life. I know it can seem more boring, but boredom is important; otherwise, how would you know what excitement was?

Karen said...

Entropy has a positive value? That makes me hoot with laughter, at the same time as I realize, of course, it makes perfect sense.

No need to take up reality TV; reality is far more interesting, cloaked as it is in the mundane.