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Order can be duller than Chaos


Sarah had always had confidence in her own judgment. She believed in instant, instinctive reactions: she had always known at once whether it was the right tea-set, the right dress, the right man. Or so she thought. Gradually, she noticed some slippage. Either she was losing her powers, or the world was changing. The crockery that she had thought so retro turned out to be garish The dress which had seemed so flattering in the shop looked in daylight like a Crimplene sack. And as for the man, well! She had thought that her latest swain was full of charm and empathy, but it turned out that he was a sort of cross between an anaconda and Marcel Proust.

It might, of course, be a simple matter of entropy: the general tendency of things to slide into chaos. Sarah was not an orderly person. She forgot things - the keys on the park bench, people’s names, the dates of dental appointments. Perhaps entropy had taken a more savage hold on her life because she had a natural affinity with it. 

Anyhow, things progressed downwards at lightning speed. Sarah felt like a scree-runner gathering traction, seeing boulders and pebbles roaring by. Her judgement began to go spectacularly awry. She found that she had signed up for courses in which she had minimal interest - brass rubbing, demotic Greek, flower arranging, accountancy. She filled in an online dating form and then saw too late that she had stipulated gym bunnies and catholics as prospective mates. Things got worse, and she found that people’s judgements about her went increasingly askew. They actually proposed her as Chairman of the Decency Committee, they bought her gold lame which made her look like Bet Lynch, they said she had a posh accent. The entropy cycle swirled down faster and faster. Life was a plug-hole after all. She’d be Joanna Southcott or Carrie Johnson before the end of the week. 

But wait. There was a subtle change afoot. Sarah felt she could almost snuff it in the air, like a stallion lifting its upper lip to savour the scent of the mare in heat. Or - to try another metaphor - she felt as though all the clocks were about to chime midnight together. She become attentive. There was a loud click, of all the cogs reaching their due slot together. Order was being established, and the hierachies were shuffling until all was arranged nicely in rows and columns, stretching out to the crack of doom. Sarah found out that this re-assertion of order was called “negentropy”. 

Negentropy was a little dull and predictable of course. But it had one positive aspect: that people no longer made inappropriate judgements about who Sarah was or what she could do. And there were no surprises, nothing was lost. No one broke wind in a lift, no one kissed the wrong person and ran away screaming, no one kicked a football and found that it was a cannonball. Chaos, thought Sarah grimly, seemed to be a thing of the past. Negentropy wasn’t fun. But it was comfortable.

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