Ask my bowl of rice about entropy

The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy will only ever increase.

As sure as time moves forward, things will break down. 

photo by Rodion Kutsaev

This morning, after warming up a bowl of rice, I sent a few grains flying with only a slight mis-movement on my part. Suddenly I had a problem. The small, light pieces of rice scattered with a surprising amount of force, as if they were finally set free from prison. I looked at the rice on the floor and couldn’t help but think of entropy.

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my jaw

First was worse, now is better.

There was a problem with my temporomandibular joint, on the right side of my face. The pain and stiffness has been on and off, but overall I’d say it was accruing, playing the long game. This started years ago. Yesterday, or maybe two, it reached a breaking point. The pain reached that level where you say, “enough is enough. I’ve got to at least conduct a google search about this.” And so I did.

I found a simple video with incredibly simple exercises for relieving pain. One of them simply advised me to open and close my mouth slowly. Surprisingly, I had never tried this before. I have opened my jaw in the past once or twice, only to test the limit of pain, but never before did I think to try to open it as a sort of therapeutic, stretching exercise. Other exercises included applying pressure to my jaw from each side, and pushing it back to stretch the joints.

It’s amazing how simple these exercises were, and amazing how I never thought to try them on my own. Another thing I learned is that the jaw pain can result from tension held in the jaws, and to fix that, one should be more mindful of when they are clenching their jaws. And now I’m checking in with myself more, noticing when I am anxiously clenching my jaws. Turns out, very often. So the pain from my jaws is connected to more than the little joint on the right side of my face, and partly results from anxiety, as well.

Sometimes, even seemingly trivial pains reach the point where you go to seek treatment. That crucial point is preceded by agony, and then helplessness. Sometimes, the treatment you receive is dead-easy, and the very low cost is far outweighed by how much the treatment makes you better. 

Makes me think about these everyday pains that we just accept and roll with, instead of investigating. They can be like tiny holes in a ship– eventually they could cause some serious damage, but often can just be plugged up and settled.



Forgot to pour a little out for him last night.

I first met W. in Dublin. He was sitting down with a small, smiling crowd around him in the hostel I stayed in. Playing guitar. Singing. I made my way over to the music and took the cup of wine that W. offered  insisted. Then I took the guitar, and he sung blues and Bob Marley.

I didn’t see him much after I left the hostel and moved into my apartment. But once at Sweeney’s; it was reggae night in the dungeon downstairs. “Kinky Reggae”, Marley, was playing. Who do I see, stumbling through the crowd? He barely acknowledges me, but again offers insists that I have a drink. A good, happy guy.

But his Facebook says he died. Just a few days before the posts from family members sharing links to the memorial and explaining the situation, he made a post about feeling sick, maybe from food poisoning.

W. was a young guy. A few years older than me. We weren’t very close, but were friends. I was struck by the news of his death.

Why was I so surprised? As I think about it, I realize it’s partly because our culture shies away from the topic of death. Unless you’re involved in “the battle” against death– long hospital hours, corrosive medicine, grueling treatments– you don’t hear about death except as a sudden tragedy. In truth, death is the only guaranteed assurance from life. If you are alive, you will certainly have death.

And anyways, who is to know what follows from life? Who knows what awaits us in death? We tuck death away from sight; we euphemize it. But it’s coming. Maybe it’s not so bad to realize that it comes. Maybe it gives us some perspective.

There is a certain quiet that comes to me that, after some thinking about it, I can only classify as divine. This sacred silence often comes during meditation, or in the early morning hours, or suddenly, from nowhere. Thinking about death also connects us me this mysterious, divine presence.

In some ways, I think death might be God. The power of death over our lives is absolute. We wouldn’t have life without death. Our lives derive meaning from death. Our motivations stem from death. We fear death. And perhaps only love and acceptance of death can ever bring us peace before our final peace.