Up and Atom

What animates us? We live; we experience awareness; we have consciousness of self. Where does the energy come from that acts as our driving force? According to physicist Jeremy England, it’s the entropy, stupid!

Simply unpacked, his theory maintains that atoms subjected to energy (say electromagnetic force) will tend to organize so that they will more efficiently dissipate that energy. This is entropy. Like the ‘arrow of time’ which only proceeds in one direction (according to current physics), entropy only leads to energy dispersion. It is the reason why my coffee will get colder – and not hotter – while it sits on the table as I write this piece. The coffee is dissipating energy to match the temperature in the room: entropy.

Over long periods of time, clusters of atoms develop structures – some complex — for dissipating energy, e.g., photosynthesis. England makes a case that complex structures gradually evolve to absorb and distribute increasing amounts of energy. Under certain conditions, life can develop. England says “You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant.”

Hmmm… why?

Well, apparently there are two reasons: a) increasing self-assembly allows clusters of atoms to absorb and rationalize greater amounts of field energy and b) self-replication is an efficient option for handling copious amounts of energy.

In sum, the resonance of energy in a field leads atoms to congregate in ways that allow more efficient systems for binding and disseminating energy. This process conforms to the law of physics in which an even distribution of energy is the final state. It is much like obtaining equilibrium in a solution – for instance, like stirring cream in your coffee. Rocks do it, trees do it, even the birds and the bees do it. Complex clusters can do it better – and they will over time replicate to form more clusters in order to handle all the field energy.

Wow! I applaud Dr. England. I also applaud all those who search after the ‘Big Why’. However, I’d hate to think we are just a special case of the second law of thermodynamics.  What is missing is any sense of intentionality – at what point does our purpose extend beyond energy dissipation?

Up, Up and a Way Out

Recently a friend asked me what I do to keep my brain sharp.  She has scrabble and crossword puzzles and I have Sudoku and Wally!

For me, it is likely that we are, in fact, evolved from randomly interacting atoms in chance encounters with other “stuff” under varying conditions that occurred in some primordial ooze. I also believe that all living and non-living things are in community with each other and don’t just survive independently, but in concert with all things of this world: interdependence if you will.  How we/they know what to do in order to fit into this whole-earth relationship, I don’t know.

Wally ends his piece with a question regarding the absence of intentionality and the notion that there must be more than physicist England suggests.  Another friend of mine refers to the idea of deliberate intervention as something he calls Source Energy; His name for what some call God, others call Nature, divine intervention, etc.  

Clearly there is no universal agreement as to what the source of our energy is.   Some of us are crystal clear about what is behind our existence and some of us have ideas with many captivating questions.  Perhaps the more important issue for all of us is to accept that the human world has always held differing beliefs to the questions of who we are and where we came from and to proceed with the notion of being the best versions of who we are for our universal community and ourselves.

What I do know is that there is some intangible thing that exists beyond our individual and collective consciousness.  And I know this because often, while walking in nature, I am struck with a overwhelming feeling of joy and gratitude and my usual reaction to shout out, “Thank You!”  And, since it’s usually only Duke and I during these moments, to whom am I offering thanks?


This is a tough one for me.  Not sure about all the scientific stuff but I know MY energy is definitely influenced by life circumstance and emotional state of mind.  I know that when I feel purposeful and productive my energy intensifies and I become industrious and excited about getting things done.  My body seems to rise to the occasion and supplies the necessary energy needed to attack the tasks I have to  address.  My mind becomes sharp too and focused.  An object in motion tends to stay in motion!  It’s a great feeling.  I have a purpose and a path. 

When I first retired from teaching I had a difficult time reinventing myself and as a result my body was slow to pick up the new life required of me. Depression slows the process down as well, and saps the energy from my body making me want to go inward into my head and feel sorry for myself.   When I run into emotional roadblocks, which unfortunately still occur at my age, it slows me down. My approach to life’s daily activities seems to lag and my desire to “do” diminishes.  Inertia sets in.  I want to climb into bed and pull the covers over my head.   It becomes hard to break that cycle until I eventually have had enough of myself like that.   I then throw the covers off to try to find the next motivating thought to get me back on track-  not always that easy and as the years pass and the body continues to suffer aging,  that motivation gets harder to activate and the energy can become less and less.  The answer for me seems to be to keep the mind sharp to identify when my energy is being sapped and to use my mind to give a spiritual pep talk to my body to get back in the fight.

4 thoughts on “Up and Atom

  1. Thanks Guys. Great thoughts! Geo’s comments really resonate with me. What animates us? It’s ‘Hope’ for me. One of my most unsuccessful business ventures was a custom t-shirt company. One might say, “we lost our shirts!” I was the guy that stored the inventory and did the fulfillment. I complained all the time about it to my business partner. The boxes took up too much room and responding to orders was tedious. Until it was all over. We sold the business for peanuts, took a huge loss, and I was left with hundreds and hundreds of blank t-shirts in my basement. But over time I realized how much I really loved the business. Orders would come in and it made me feel alive. Someone actually wanted something that I had created. And not only did they want to wear it, but they were willing to pay for it. As ridiculous as it sounds, every order gave me an incredible amount of hope. I’ve never found anything, even as an architect who designs residential buildings, that animated me like the hope I got from every one of those orders that arrived by email.


    1. Boy, I understand your experience! I’m sitting here doing the receipts for my son’s restaurant… every customer brings a sense of hope. It’s like a continuous string of small reinforcements…


  2. I love getting your blogs! It makes me reflect on your thoughts. I agree that we are more than a cluster of atoms. We are left with the mystery. That is why there are so many answers. I feel that our personal ex0eriences are a big factor in determining our answers. I will have to reread your essays.


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