Conservation of Energy

The other day, a student of a taciturn and sometimes pessimistic temperament, whom I have counselled for the past couple of years as she tries to reorient her life, sent a short e-mail to tell me about her interesting and enjoyable first day at a new, temporary job.

“Thank you for making me do something,” she wrote. “I mean your giving me some energy to stand up even if it’s not permanent.”

Appreciating the ambiguity of the word “permanent” in that statement, I replied that no energy to stand up is ever permanent. The goal for a human is to stand as well as you can for as long as the energy lasts — and therefore to conserve energy as well as you can, in order to remain standing long enough to do the worthwhile things that one can only do while standing.

A life well-lived has as much to do with the energy one does not waste as with the energy one burns valuably.

A kind longtime reader recently told me of having “consulted The Great Surrender [my 2013 essay] so often, as it is the basis for the understanding of events and our entropy, I think I could recite it.” 

My answer: 

Well, that could come in handy, since I imagine it won’t be too long now before all such obsolete thinking will be preserved only through oral tradition, as the printed versions will be scrubbed from the collective reservoir outright. So hang on to “The Great Surrender” for future contingencies. You never know when there might be one young person around you who is able to withstand the universal indoctrination just enough to wonder if there was ever another way, and “The Great Surrender,” whether recited verbatim or in spirit, might be just the crack in the wall that he or she needs to find hope. 

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