Entropy, the First Mark of Existence

In the Beginning, there wasn’t much…

Some would argue that there was less than that.

Maybe something negative.

Negative Muchness.

Or some kind of polar Suchness.

An Is-ness.

An I Am.

We can rejoice in that or accept the Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Existentialism doesn’t have to be dour.

Then again, it can be a real Buzzkill:


What if the Gods don’t love us?

What if we’re just a houseplant, or worse, an infestation?

What if, despite our protestations, the Gods are Real, and They Just Don’t Care?

Part of growing up, as human beings, is realizing our parents, our caregivers, are not Gods.

What if the Gods aren’t either?


Buddha was asked about this.

He didn’t deny the Gods.

But he did deny some things.

He denied any soul.

Anatta, said the Buddha.

The first delusion is self-hood.

Understand that, and you understand the next step:


But the Gods? Buddha didn’t question their existence at all.

He merely called them out:

They’ve got no business with us, and vice versa.

Maybe that’s how our synthetic children will feel…


The Three Marks of Existence: trilakaa

In Buddhism, our lives – the lives of all sentient beings – are characterized by three experiences – all of which leave a mark.

First, Everything Changes.

Everything is transient, and temporary.

All we love will die, in time.


In one of the early Buddhist myths, Siddhartha visits his father. His father offers him everything:

the Keys to the Kingdom,

Fame, power, glory,

Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll

Sid Agreed.

What?!? You say!!!

This is the same Sid who had been tempted by the incarnation of Blind Lust, Mara.

The Demon of Desire.

If you will, the Buddhist Devil.

He hadn’t shed any ground at all. But now, here was his father.

And so, Sid agreed.

On One Condition…


Sid’s whole message can be summed up in one symbol.


In physics, S = entropy.

S never leaves us.

It follows us, day in and out.

Time, the Devourer.


Or, to quote a man who was praised by no less than Albert Einstein as “the greatest mind in American history”:

Any method involving the notion of entropy, the very existence of which depends on the second law of thermodynamics, will doubtless seem to many far-fetched, and may repel beginners as obscure and difficult of comprehension.

Willard Gibbs, Graphical Methods in the Thermodynamics of Fluids


So, what was Sid’s response to his father?

“Everything is Impermanent; Anicca.

Therefore, I suffer; Dukha.

Make me forever young. My friends, my lovers, my family.”

Sid paused.

“Our friends, our lovers, our family. Give me that, father.”

We can only imagine who broadly Sid’s dad must have smiled.

And wept quietly, on the inside.


And the takeaway?

How we treat life is at least as important as we treat death. *

Regardless, Nothing Lasts Forever.

And that is the observation of the first Mark of Existence, as laid down by Siddhartha Gautama Sakyamuni, a.k.a. Buddha.

* “How we treat life is at least as important as we treat death” is a line I cribbed from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Star Trek is equally guilty of sometimes being Buddhist.

4 thoughts on “Entropy, the First Mark of Existence

  1. I disagree. As I see this issue, the dead state of a previously living organism lasts from the point of death forever.

    Death of the organism occurs when it passes a critical threshold of disorder (distributed rather than ordered energy – greater entropy).

    However, while ever the Surrounding environment possesses ordered energy, the atoms of the organism may be assembled into (or retained as) molecules which may be incorporated into the creation of other organisms – of which the growth of its seed is a special case.

    As for the prior organism however, to repeat, death lasts forever.

  2. Thanks Mike!

    Perhaps this is true of the so called ‘individual’, which Buddhism negates by stating ‘Anatta’; which is to say that from this cosmological viewpoint, there was never any living organism to begin with, or to end with.

    Selfhood itself is fundamentally undermined as having no reality vector, outside of the mindstream that asserts itself as being an “I”. Of course, we’ve now begged the question of mindstream itself, which is where Buddhism enters a semi-quantum paradox;

    To assert mind is to assert material form. To assert material form is to infer mind.

    In Buddhism, this is referred to as the Two Truths.

    All is Emptiness.

    All is Fullness.

    Either way, Schrodinger’s cat probably needs to use the litter box…

    I think the bigger question here is cosmological; if we posit ‘creatio ex nihilo’, that something came from nothing, then we have to question if there really is anything at all; otherwise, we end up in a infinite regressive paradox; i.e.. to quote Bertrand Russell, it’s turtles all the way down.

    I am hedging my bets that what we call consciousness, mindstream in Buddhism, is not a function of the material realm, but rather a co-creator; a fundamental component of space time; a fundamental part of the matrix.

    To go back to the spooky world of quantum physics, the is the so called observer effect. The state of the system is measurement dependent.

    In the Tantric traditions, this is called Pusurha and Prkriti; consciousness and matter. One cannot exist with the other.

    This has nothing to do a “soul” per se; that’s a temporary add-on that is very system dependent (Buddhism calls this systems dependency “the Five Aggregates”, which includes our bodies. Break one of the aggregates, and the individual is only a memory).

    But, all said and done, I’m pretty low on the cosmic pay scale, so who knows?

    Maybe it really *is* turtles, all the way down…!

    (as a parting thought, this was a major source of philosophical dispute among early Buddhists; one group, the annihilationists, asserted the total lack of “soul”. Another group, the eternalists, maintained that traces passed through the mindstream, allowing for the concept of reincarnation. A very glib philosopher named Nagarjuna came along and said “yes” to both groups, giving rise to the Middle Way, by using arguments so convoluted that both sides were forced to throw there hands up in the air and walk away.

    Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka, the Middle or Center way, is a key element of Mahayana Buddhism, which is the dominant form of Buddhism today. Nagarjuna was especially influential in the growth of Tibetan Buddhism…

    However, historically, there were Buddhists who were entirely against the notion of reincarnation, going back at least to the 2nd century C.E., which is when Nagarjuna lived.

    Thanks for being patient with my reply!

    And keep an eye out for those turtles…they run deep 🙂

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