“Still, even with such a system in place, things fell and things broke; piles formed and my methods of orientation always seemed to unravel. I was only twelve, but through the slow, inevitable burn of a thousand sunrises and sunsets, a thousand maps traced and retraced, I had already absorbed the valuable precept that everything crumbled into itself eventually, and to cultivate a crankiness about this was just a waste of time.”
–p. 4, The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, Reif Larsen
I am reading the most incredible book. It is about a young cartographer, a prodigy, who is invited to the Smithsonian to receive an award. He goes on a cross-country trip to get there, and madness ensues. At least I assume so – I haven’t gotten to that point yet.
The first-person speaker of this novel, T. S., has an incredible mind, and it comes across in the way that he sees the world, and thus how we the readers see his world. The sentences in this book are masterfully written, full of imagery and power. And at the very base of it all is a young man trying to understand life and its pain.
This quote is from one of the side notes (in this book, there are literal side notes, notes written in the margins, along with drawings). This idea of entropy is something that I’m continually relearning, as I have to buy food each week because my produce goes bad, or I have to pay my mechanic to fix my car, or someone I know breaks a bone. Everything falls apart. Often, to make something new, something has to be destroyed, and as soon as that new thing is created, it already starts to die. Depressing, perhaps, but it’s a fact of life. And, as T. S. says, there’s no point in being cranky about it – though, for most of us (okay, for ME), it’s our default.
I think that’s why I write. I want something to last. I want to remember something as it was for one instant in time. It’s the same reason that people take photographs or paint or do whatever it is that they do. We’re trying to capture pieces of this world and keep them forever. Of course, that’s truly impossible, but when we make art, we both commemorate and create. That is, we both pay homage to that piece of reality we decided needed to remain, as well as creating a new piece of reality and our perception of it that will continue. Each person makes the art into their own reality, creating their own world. And in this way, we fight entropy. We fight the breaking down by building up. Our desperate hope is that even as our bodies and minds waste away, we will remember a sliver of what life was and is and is to come.