optional but pain – pain is
Adapted from the line, “Going around in a sulk will get you nowhere. Pain is unavoidable, but suffering is optional.” in the book, A Long Petal of the Sea, by Isabel Allende.
Ms. Allende, according to Wikipedia, has been called the world’s most widely read Spanish-language author.
Who am I to argue with that.
And I read her stuff in english?
It does make me want to learn to read Spanish to see if its different.
The point in the book where Ms. Allende writes this line, one of the main characters is adjusting to the changes in his life since turning 60.
I should be able to relate somewhat and maybe even to the pain he might be feeling or experiencing.
Then I think about his life as recounted in the book.
He fought in the Spanish Civil War on the losing side in the late 1930s.
He was a refuge after the war in France.
He lost his father and brother and maybe his mother (she returns later) in the war.
Surviving being a refuge, he makes a life in Chile until the right wing take over again destroys everything in his life and he ends up a political prisoner in the 1970s.
Rescued he works to make a life in Venezuela and to adjust being 60.
I guess I wouldn’t have much to relate to in the way of pain and suffering after all.
Ms. Allende then writes, “Entropy is the natural law of the universe, everything tends toward disorder, to break down, to disperse. People get lost, feelings fade, and forgetfulness slips into lives like mist. It takes heroic willpower just to keep everything in place.“
And I really had to puzzle over this.
I really need to learn Spanish because this made little sense to me though it seemed so simple, so basic.
What was I missing?
It hit me that back in college one of roommates was always talking about entropy.
He was studying geological engineering (he went to invent a bomb for the Air Force that will go through 100s of feet of rock before it explodes) and to him, and because of him, I thought of entropy as a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work.
And I just couldn’t see where Ms. Allende was going.
Was this lost on translation?
I thought of copying the passage into the Google translator and then translate that back into English to see what happens.
But that seemed like a lot of work.
Was there another use of the word, Entropy?
Into the google we go and glad I did as there is another meaning.
In this situation, I am sure Ms. Allende meant Entropy to mean “a lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder”
That works nicely.
The lack of order or predictability; the gradual decline into disorder, is the natural law of the universe, everything tends toward disorder, to break down, to disperse.
People get lost, feelings fade, and forgetfulness slips into lives like mist.
It takes heroic willpower just to keep everything in place.
On the other hand, the radio was playing Beethoven’s 1st Piano Concerto as I typed this out.
When it finished, the program presenter commented, with an honest enthusiasm in his voice, “As fresh as it was the day it was written!”
Thinking the way I was thinking about disorder and gradual decline, this statement made me think.
As fresh as it was as the day it was written.
Written by Beethoven when he was 24.
And we have had access to it since then.
A hedge against disorder.
A wall against decline.
It didn’t breakdown, disperse or get lost in the mist.
The heroic willpower of a 24 year kid keeping everything, well, somethings, in place for all us for centuries.
Pain is unavoidable.
Sulking and suffering are optional.
Just one more reason I am grateful God created music.