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1. a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.
Let’s imagine for a moment that a 17th-century farm hand steps into a researcher’s idling time machine and accidentally zaps himself into present-day New York City. Now let’s say that, upon arrival, he becomes so afraid and overwhelmed by the closing walls of human advancement that he runs into the street, causing a car to swerve into oncoming traffic, which kills the family of four travelling inside. Surely, he’s not guilty of murder, at least not intentionally. But, is his ignorance forgivable? How much of what he did was a choice? He did not have to run away. He did not have to be so gripped by fear that he disregarded the value of humanity around him. Four people died because he couldn’t find the resolve to stop and take a breath. But, he was overwhelmed. He didn’t know.
This past week, the elevator to my building opened to reveal the luggage cart just sitting there, riding up and down, a taciturn passenger for who knows how long. Someone borrowed it to carry something — groceries, a box of rowdy-gentleman tee-shirts — up to their apartment and then lacked the care to return it back to the front desk. I was so perplexed by this that I relayed the story to a date two nights ago. She kind of slyly smiled and revealed that she, too, will send the cart back down the elevator — just the cart — once she’s done with it; as if the cart will sprout sentience when no one’s looking and just wheel itself back to its proper place, like a mundane, shitty version of Toy Story. Her reasoning was that sending it back down was better than leaving it on her floor. When I challenged her, she said never really considered how things would play out after that. Ok. Check, please. But, here’s my question: Is she a dick? It’d be easy to say yes. But her intention wasn’t ill; it was more willfully ignorant.
I’ve been thinking on this idea of ignorance versus innocence and all of its permutations in between. Once you get inside it, you can’t escape it. I see it everywhere. Did the person who just cut me off know I was driving there? Was the guy who shouldered me on the subway overcome with the grief from a dying loved one? I find it most interesting — as is my wont — in the context of relationships. I get a lot of emails from girls asking me what it means when a guy won’t get back to her. “Should I text, again?” Frequently, they make excuses for him (which is hilarious): “He’s really busy, so I get it.” Oh, is he? Is he too busy to go to the gym? Too busy to watch TV? Too busy to call a friend? If he’s doing any of those things, you are officially a lower priority in his life. That’s a hard reality, but it’s a true one, and it’s not necessarily a bad one. Should you (and I’m speaking to guys now, too) — a veritable stranger — immediately occupy a space of importance in anyone’s life? Or, if we can put aside ego, would it more realistic and normal to expect that person to continue living for themselves? Most people are not intentional in their disregard. Ignorance may not be innocence, but it’s important to separate malice from apathy.
There is real, Cosby-level bad in this world. I believe that. But I also think that the vast majority of the perceived injustices on Earth are a blunder of existence, the natural outgrowth of molecules bumping into each other ad infinitum, the frictionous result of people living for themselves while trying to live for others. In the end, even our most unselfish actions are for selfish purposes. We can’t escape our own ego; we can’t break free from the pleasure that can be derived from displeasure. If we do something, then it is, by definition, something we wanted to do. The only entropy is our capacity for love. And in that vast, freeing gray space, I have to wonder, how can we blame anyone?
So what I’m saying is: Sarah, I’m not going to call you back. Don’t be pissed. Think of yourself as a luggage cart, left adrift, riding an elevator, waiting to be found..