Saturday, February 6, 2010

What's in a name?

The issue of names has long been interesting to me. My birth name, Eric, was bestowed before I was even conceived, possibly before my mother even menstruated. It was the name of her mother's brother, who did not return from WW2. He was it seems my mother's best friend/big brother/stand-in father (her dad was always working and such) and my mother was also an only child. My grandmother never really got over it either, and it would be a short-price bet that she would have insisted. Naming can be part of warding off the ills of uncertainty I think.

Someone once said that at some point in our lives most of us realise that we cannot control the fact that we will die and from that moment on begin transferring our need for a sense of some control onto influencing the circumstances of our death instead. You know, like dieting, trying to get wealthy, and at the other end of the spectrum excessive risk-taking; often perhaps a subconscious attempt to 'go out on your terms.' You see, my great-uncle Eric was not actually pronounced KIA, but "Missing Presumed Dead," surely a cruel prognosis for the loved ones. He was in the Australian army, and was on the island of Rabaul when the Japanese army overran it. Really, pretty much no-one survived. Years down the track, stories emerged from the few survivors, but I don't think my grandmother ever completely gave up hope. Had I been born a girl, I would have been Erica - it was that strong. Defiance in the face of a cruel God? Or just some small voodoo way of raising the spirit of the dead, or a help in finally trying to put to rest the terrible uncertainty of his fate. Let the new displace the old. I don't know.

It's one of the reasons I said yes to a new name when the opportunity arose, but that's another story really. These days I use both. Here, I am happy with Aadhaar, but if you wish you can call me Eric, I don't mind. I'll know who you mean.

'Entropy and Light
', what sort of name is that?

Well, I wanted a name that wasn't taken for starters, and as I'm ambiguous about the whole way this blog thing is going to take shape I wanted a sort of non-subject-matter-oriented title. And I'd been thinking about these two subjects and how they relate to my life.

Entropy technically is about the second law of thermodynamics, and basically says 'stuff always gets lost along the way.' Or 'things tend to decay toward sameness.' They use the term in information theory too. In common usage though (to the extent that it's common anyway) it tends to just stand for the tendency of stuff to decay, fall apart, devolve from order to chaos and so on. My thinking is that it's just a fact of being in a 3rd dimensional existence, and affects absoultely everything comprised even in part of matter. And maybe energy too. I'm not sure there.

Which is where Light comes in. Light in the physical sense is not entirely perfectly understood. What, exactly it is, no-one can properly say. It has no mass yet can push on a solar sail. It can heat a transparent solid yet pass through with no loss of brightness or speed. Where does that energy come from then? I am no physicist, but I know enough to know that those who say they know don't, really. Or they wouldn't constantly be looking for ways to make Newton's and Einstein's theories (to name but a couple) fit what little we can apparently observe and demonstrate about out universe.

So I really like light, it's mysterious and does great stuff. Life depends on it. Life also needs entropy and decay. Does entropy apply to light? Seems maybe not.

All of this stuff is just wordy wordy head exercises really. What I'm saying is that to me, my life feels very close to the raw qualities of entropy, and light, in all their physical, mystical, and poetic senses. Maybe yours does too sometimes. And I had to call the blog something. I thought about 'Neville' but I'm not that much of a nerd.

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