I don’t think too many authors get to say this: My first evening as writer-in-residence at the Historic Joy Kogawa House was spent handing out treats to Star Wars characters, angels and demons, princesses and overlords—and the odd caterpillar or two. The perfect match for the fantasies writers have swarming around in their heads. Or should have, at least.
I’ve come to finish a novel started in 1993. Yes, that’s right. More than a quarter century in the hatching. Right now, the working title: The Second Law of Thermodynamics. And yes, that’s the law of entropy. So very appropriate, I thought, that my second day at the house was All Saints’ Day in the Christian Calendar, followed in quick succession by All Souls’ Day and the Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos), depending on who is doing the celebrating. What do they have in common? These are all attempts to defy entropy.
What is entropy? According to the second law of thermodynamics: “If a reversible process occurs, there is no net change in entropy. In an irreversible process, entropy always increases, so the change in entropy is positive. The total entropy of the universe is continually increasing.” In plain language, if we could go back in time, the process would be reversible. As we can’t go back in time (at least thus far without risking unsolvable paradoxes), the process is not reversible and thus subject to an increase in entropy. In the end, the universe will flat line.
But not if humans can help it. While the idea of halting and even reversing entropy permanently requires a belief in something beyond ourselves – an afterlife, reincarnation, universal consciousness – there are ways to fight off (or keep at bay) entropy in the short term. I say “short term” because eventually even these methods will flat line.
I’m talking about creativity, that god-like ability we have to imagine and then put together statements, emotions, thoughts, feelings, energies so that they communicate something to others. So that they “mean” something. Something that is fresh and new, and yes, reverses entropy for that brilliant shining moment. Something mysterious yet commonplace if we just put on the right spectacles. Something we’re all capable of achieving in one way or another.
And that’s what I’m hoping to do while I’m lucky enough to be at the Historic Joy Kogawa House for the next three months – writing, reading, meeting others in the community, lecturing, workshopping. The dream job, in other words. Amid the ghosts and spirits of other creations. Creations that have helped elevate what would otherwise be harsh realities into a way to pass on pain and the knowledge of pain, forgiveness, blessings, and love for the universe.
It’s scary, I know. But so are Halloween, All Saints’ Day, and the Day of the Dead!
But we’ll be okay. As long as we keep fighting entropy.
All hail to Mictēcacihuātl and Mictlāntēcutli!