Thinking, as I’m sipping my coffee at Dunkin, a Saturday habit, we build civilization as part of the urge to reduce variables and the effort of living. The thought started during my pre-waking slumber: We work, build shelters and store resources, create complex networks, to try to decrease unpredictability and the end result is that I don’t need to worry about my source of caffeine.
This orderly environment we create is ideal for raising children. It is a nest. Or at least at some levels. Where we, like birds, weave a structure out of chaos in order to keep our offspring safe from predators and ourselves protected a world that can be unkind to the unprepared. Squirrels scurry around, in the fall, gathering up things to keep for food over the hard winter months. Our own species, likewise, is as instinctively forward thinking and creates systems to ease the strain.
The human endeavor, towards these ends of producing stability and abundance, has been so successful that many can go their entire lives not appreciating it.
We’re so well-off, in the developed world, that our impoverished are obese rather than hungry and many now think that healthcare (a service provided by others) is a right. we live in such unprecedented luxury and ease, even the poor can afford a lifestyle that many ancient kings would envy and yet feel so entitled to everything that we will shoot up the McDonald’s drive thru if we can’t get our bacon:
Anyhow, other than entitlement and lack of appreciation, another product of civilization is boredom and fat. In the absence of wars we created sport and without hard work, to keep from physical deterioration, we go to the gym. It is truly bizarre, when you think about it, that we go out and seek the very anxieties that our ancestors built civilization to escape. We are adrenaline junkies, doing intentionally dangerous things for the fix, we want to have unpredictable outcomes.
All of this really does make everything about our existence a weird paradox. As soon we achieve a little bit of stability and peace we become restless. That’s what convinces me that we are as much nature, made for the world we are in, as we are not. That feeling that we somehow do not belong in this place with death and sorrow is what has motivated our progress. It is less about our own being otherworldly and more what has enabled us to survive this universe that would kill us the moment we grew complacent.
This, incidentally, is the one thing that many people do not grasp about entropy, we tend to see decay and deterioration as being only a bad thing. I mean, we fight it. If someone walks into the house with muddy boots it is upsetting and spurs action. But, without this tendency to disorder, without this repeated need to clean up on aisle five, would we even have a reason to live? As much as we hate disorder, it is this continual struggle against it that gives us meaning and purpose.