We were driving up the hill just outside Whitchurch on the A49 when I had the thought, “everything runs out of steam”. Not, at first glance, a particularly profound thought. But as I reflected, it did seem that it did apply to “everything”.
Not just cars, but human beings, organisations, cultures, countries, the universe, they all need an input of energy to keep going and eventually they collapse and die. I remembered that there was a word for it. We struggled to remember what it was. On the other side of Whitchurch we remembered. The word is “entropy”.
As my engineer brother-in-law reminded us when we arrived at our destination, entropy is one of the laws of thermodynamics – put simply, not enough thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work. Yes, “running out of steam”! It seems to me that when we are uncertain we run out of steam – uncertainty undermines our energy and our capacity for action.
How do we live with uncertainty and impermanence? For that is what it is. The very nature of life is “impermanence”. We tend to see it negatively. The day after her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral a newspaper headline declared: The End of the Elizabethan Age. Will tomorrow’s paper’s headline say: The Start of the Age of Charles III?
Impermanence enables possibilities, possibilities for change, growth and renewal. Otherwise all would be fixed. As St Benedict urged his monastics, “Keep death daily before your eyes”, but get on with life. Or in the words of St Teresa of Avila: “Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, Everything is changing, God alone is changeless.” Changeless but, I think open to possibilities.