Friday, March 20, 2009

A Balcony View of Entropy

lemon tree One morning several years I was sitting on my balcony, having my coffee in my sweat pants and T-shirt like some kind of Chaplin aristocrat. It was my day off and I had made no plan but to be as lazy as a house cat all that day. The birdies were a twittering and the coolness in the air was just beginning to fade into what was sure to be another smothering late summer day. Just out of reach was a lemon tree with a few surviving fruit. Life, it seemed at that rare but rapturous moment, could hardly be much improved upon.

However, that morning was not as glorious for others I noticed. On one side of the parking lot, I saw a man attempting to restart his car. The fading circular grumbling sound told me that his battery was dead. Coincidentally not too far away, I spotted another neighbor similarly distressed. During the night, his right front tire had gone flat. Added to that, apparently his spare tire was also flat. (My father would have torn him to shreds for allowing such negligence.)

  I watched them both grow increasingly angry and frustrated until each one called a mechanic for help. Their mornings clearly were off to a bad beginning. Eventually, of course, they managed to solve their individual problems and arrived to their prospective offices a few hours late.

Later, after some idle deliberation about what I had seen, I realized something. At no time did either of the two men look past their own difficulties and make commiseration. How hard it would have been to make some kind of neighborly greeting, if nothing else, to share the aggravation? I have seen it often enough in Midwest. If one man had a car problem,a committee of husbands would be formed and some makeshift solution would be arranged. It struck me as a bit odd that it hadn't happen in this case, as well. After all, nobody can fault Turks for not being social.

And if either of these men had made the least little attempt at sharing and empathizing, they might have quickly solved their own problems. The man with the flat tire could have used his car as a jump for the other man, and the first man could have, in exchange, driven the second man to the gas station to air up his spare tire.

Pain shared is pain lessened; joy shared is joy increased. Thus do we refute entropy.

Spider Robinson

1 comment:

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