en-tro-py (n.) Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society
This is not the main definition of this word, but it struck me as profound when it was recently described to me in this manner.
I have recently become more attune to my patients saying that getting older is tough, it’s not for the weak, youth is wasted on the young, etc. They don’t like when I use the word degeneration, as in osteoarthritis, or wear-and-tear. My response for the past week has been; entropy.
Our bodies are a complex system, made up of more complex systems, and they are all deteriorating one day at a time. When my patients say, degeneration is an awful word, I inevitably say, what other choice did you have? In my aging-yet-very-active population, degeneration is the mark of use (or for those who are very sedentary, which as I just said, is not usually the case). What other option do they have? These are 70+-year-olds. Recently, I was told by one of my patients that they wish they could go back, and do it all again. I asked, do what again? You’ve told me that you were very active, and very healthy in your life-style. You continue to stay active, and eat well. What would you have done differently?
Pause… Nothing I guess.
That’s right. We are all going through entropy. Our systems are deteriorating through the process of aging or injury. Think about scar tissue. Our natural tissue is usually a well organized symphony of different types of connective tissues, and other matrices, yet scar tissue gets laid down like a web put down by a drunk spider. Deterioration. This is happening all the time in our bodies.
Now, I have not lived to be elderly yet. I do not know those actual aches and pains of aging, of this degeneration I speak of. But I can tell my patients, my family members, and now my aging friends, that when compared to the alternative, entropy isn’t half bad.