Elections, dead bicycles, peeling paint, long grass


Entropy wins. According to my handy computer dictionary entropy is a: “lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.” And here it is again, every spring.

As I was doing the first yard cleanup of the year I about every system winding down, including political systems, which, I guess, is why we have elections in the first place.

And to that end we went out this morning to vote. I was surprised by the attendance. There were long lineups, and I overheard one gentleman joke, “I guess this election must be important.” Well, let me get back to that.

First, the yard work. Our not-so-old lawnmower died last year. Maybe it was bad gas. Whenever it decided to start, the engine would surge and stall. I was done with repair shops; fixing it would take half of what a new one would cost. So, predictably, we have a new one.

This one I got on sale. Our oldest boy made short work of the long grass and wildly dandelions in the front yard. And I did the back yard, which was more like an obstacle course of toys and bikes around a trampoline rather than an actual lawn.

The mowing then led to the bikes, which I soon discovered were in a sad state. Our two older boys had managed to break the brakes on both of their new rides, so I went to work. After solving that, I decided to give my own bike to the oldest and to give his to the youngest. Call it a family-wide ride readjustment.

By the time I’d finished, the boys and their mom had their old scooter out and we’re trying to swap out its wheels with a leftover mini-bike. I was invited me to help and went inside for lunch while I grappled with the old parts. True confession? I hate mechanical work, it makes me grumpy.

Once past the greasy wheel bearings and hammering the reluctant back wheel in place, I spray painted the rusty handlebars. The paint sun-dried in seconds and the kids, happily fed, came out to wrangle their new ride.

They left me tuning up the rest of the fleet, mostly lubricating and tightening cables. I discovered that couple of the bikes, after a few seasons outside, were way past their best-before date. Entropy again.

With the lawn mowed and the bikes fixed, I took a looks at the house. And it was showing the effects of winter, too, but nothing a paint scraper, bit of paint and a brush wouldn’t fix.

While the man-made stuff was showing the effects, the growing stuff around the house is a wonder of anti-entropy. The bushes and shrubs are in fresh leaf and the huge cherry tree in the back yard is in full bloom. There was even a tiny black humming bird buzzing through the scene. It was as if nature didn’t need my attention at all. Which is true, of course.

OK. So all of this home development work leads my thinking back to local development and the voting in the town elections, which are still going on as I write. And back to the implied question posed by the guy at the polling station: is this election important?

Like my yard work, the key issue seems to revolve around the relationship between entropy and development. On the one hand, there are a lot of new candidates coming on board promoting the need for change. On the other, there are some old faces saying, well, I don’t know what. Maybe the importance of remaining the same.

One of the younger candidates in our town has a slogan: “Help me help you.” I don’t know exactly how she intends to help me (she didn’t say) other than she’s eager, willing to listen and wants a fair system. Another candidate running for mayor wants to bring in new development. And still another candidate, a former mayor, declined answering questions for the region’s major daily newspaper. It’s all very interesting. And unclear, as these things tend to be. We vote with emotion and not logic, apparently.

As for me, there’s some entropy at work here, too. My head is tired of tilting at windmills, trying to figure out what might make the world a better place. There’s a realization that’s been coming for a long time. I believe, with some good evidence, that we’ve moved from being a society of individuals capable of imagining our future, to a corporate collective that manages events and challenges as they come, minute by minute. Any remaining visions as such, are now small and manageable. The big, imaginative thoughts have been banished to the land of the impossible. Or sent off to those we think can afford them.

So the real entropy is the loss of the imaginative frontier. Sure, it still exists, but in more rarified corporately funded fields such as bioengineering or nano-engineering. For the rest of us, better to forget it, clean up the yard and take a vacation. As the wheel turns, spring and summer will be over soon enough.


  1. The imaginative frontier is still here; sometimes were just too drained by all the disorder to connect to it. There is something noble about tilting at windmills. Its those who are capable of imagining the impossible who make change happen.


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