Words have power… but they bow to entropy like everything else

Monday Musings for July 01, 2019

Good morning, Musers,

I live in Worcester, Massachusetts, the birthplace of poet Elizabeth Bishop. In 1956, she won the Pulitzer Prize for that year’s best-published volume of verse with her book: Poems: North & South - A Cold Spring, by Elizabeth Bishop (Houghton).

Bishop is buried in Hope Cemetery in Worcester, and since I take daily walks in our cemeteries, I frequently walk by her grave. What distinguishes her gravestone are the two lines of poetry on its rear. They are the closing lines of her poem, The Bight.

“All the untidy activity continues,
awful but cheerful.”

(You can find the full text of The Bight at this link: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-bight/)

Now, Bishop did not request a memorial like this. Her devotees did. In fact, the Worcester County Poetry Association led the charge by securing permission from Bishop’s family to put those lines on the family gravestone — and even today — 60-plus years after her Pulitzer —WCPA members gather at her grave on her birthday and read from her selected works.

Meanwhile, in Vienna, Austria, another gravestone is similarly graced — not with poetry… but with the formula S = k. log W. You may recognize this as Ludwig Boltzmann’s entropy formula… but if you don’t, you should. It’s a big deal… an E = MC2 kind of big deal.

Why this confluence of poets, scientists and gravestone today? Because some words are so representative of life… or so noble… or so useful — that they should be etched in stone! … while others are so base and hurtful that they should be destroyed along with Satan and his angels. Those are the ones we have in view today.

Sanballat spoke evil words to Nehemiah and company as they were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 4:1). But — and even though their words had no intrinsic value — they put a burden on God’s building project by adding to its entropy (that is, the possible arrangements of microstates that could make up a macrostate) and thereby increasing the probability that their building efforts would be in vain.

You see, God gave us a universe that is increasing in entropy. On the whole, the universe has plenty of power to accomplish God’s purposes; it’s just that its power is diminishing — and I see this as one of God’s inside jokes.

To advance his kingdom we have to ride the waves of our “own” destruction… because when the universe reaches equilibrium (and all physical systems seek equilibrium), it will effectively be destroyed… because where there is no difference in energy states, there is no useful energy... and its entropy will be at its maximum.

Fortunately, we are primarily metaphysical beings… so we won’t be destroyed… yet it is through science that we can see the necessity of the new heaven and a new earth in Revelation 21:1. If God has a physical eternity in store for us (and I think he does), then the Bible and science are in agreement that our current thermodynamic universe cannot serve that use.

But while we’re here, we still have the kingdom’s work to do… and although our omnipotent God is not limited, our playing field is — and Sanballat knew this! He tried to sew the seeds of despair... and despair is proof of entropy.

But Nehemiah and crew were more than equal to the task. So, God made them part of one of the great practical miracles in the Bible — reversing entropy by rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem… and doing so in the midst of a people who did not want it done.

(Click here to read the article referenced above. For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, email us at mainsailep@gmail.com.)