We are all going…But where?
An American President, William McKinley, on his deathbed apparently told his wife that “We are all going”. Those were his last words. Morbid, true and deeply philosophical, these words apply to everyone. But where are we going?
Since we’re here, let me trundle out more questions for you to hyper-ventilate about while you freak out about my first question. First up, how do even we know that we are going? Should we just accept Mr Unknown American President’s word? If we are not going, then what are we doing? Are we even doing something? To make it more existential, if we are doing nothing, then what is the point? And how can we “do” nothing? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
Let’s take a breath here…! Ok, should we move ahead now?
If we are going, what is the path? Is it same for all of us? Is it preordained or is it something we make for ourselves? And where does the path lead us? Does it have pit-stops on the way? Are there forks? Is the road more of a trek? What should I take for the journey? And then, the most important question of today’s times; Is there free Wi-Fi available on the road?
Having thoroughly messed up your thoughts, I think it’s my duty to tell you that I have no answers.
But don’t be disheartened. I do have something for you, just not a crisp definitive answer. I have some airy-fairy thoughts which I’ll try to explain, try being the key word. Lets’ start with the first question. The easiest answer is yes,we are going somewhere; towards an increase in randomness.
Let me prove it scientifically.
According to the second law of thermodynamics, all energy systems spontaneously move in the direction which points towards an increase in entropy, which is the measure of randomness of a system. All life runs on energy and behave as an open but regulated systems. Open as in, there are interactions with the surroundings which lead to change in the energy status. But unlike non-living systems these interactions are regulated so as to further the life and preserve it and make sure that the energy trade is in favour of life. It is this entropy which gives time it’s direction. Einstein theorized that time is just another dimension in a 4-D world where both ends of the axes point to the extremes of randomness. But for us, it points in just one direction, increase in randomness and towards the future.
So, I hope we have understood why we are moving. It’s because of a basic physics law which guides all other energy trade processes. Not the most romantic of the definitions of life but “energy trade process” does the job and Mr. McKinley was correct. We are going towards the future, towards more randomness, more complexity.
Leaving science aside for a moment, let me draw a parallel or two. At the very beginning of everything, the Big Bang, there was a state of minimum disorder and complexity. Then basic particles like neutrons, protons, electrons, neutrinos etc. were formed by combinations of earlier formed particles like pi-mesons, quarks and gluons. After that, the simplest of molecules, Hydrogen and then Helium was formed. Nuclear fusion occurred combining these atoms, producing more complex elements like nitrogen, chlorine, lead, iron and the radioactive elements, which are more complex still. Then were formed, galaxies, stars, planets, nebulae and dust clouds and other things of universe.
Compare this with human life if you would. We are born, as the simplest of beings. We can only cry to express, understand nothing but hunger and need only food. So simple, so ordered. And then, things changed. Our world grew larger, more complex with many people, many feelings and even more desires. We change and become complex, more chaotic than our little selves. Isn’t it funny that we are a microcosm of the whole universe, that something which we haven’t been able to fathom is replicated in our lives? Thus, we are actually going towards chaos.
But to what end?
And weren’t we told that we need to find peace? How do we do that while trudging towards more entropy?
I think that’s our end. It is the moment of greatest chaos, maximum disorder that brings peace. Anti-climatic and a wry joke played on us by nature, but from what we know about it, it does tend to have a really twisted sense of humour. Have you ever experienced a moment of pain so intense that it dissolves everything else around you? It blocks other senses, you don’t feel a thing but your mind works as a wheel, spinning eternally. Thoughts, repetitive and random, tug and devour every ounce of your strength but the pain causes them to fritter away. That is our point of greatest chaos. And beyond that point, lies peace.
I can’t tell exactly what that is; acceptance of whatever is happening or a cold detachment, because everyone reacts differently but what it does is that the pain dulls. It hurts, but as if the blow has traversed a great distance before doing so. Thoughts begin to clear, like a congealed solution put right. We start breathing again, living again. And realise that it is a just another sort of journey. We are all indeed going.