This morning I read a particularly thought-provoking newsletter sent by one of my favorite Substack writers, who in fact, inspired the Writers Notebook series I began in October 2022. It’s a direct response to her 28-day challenge of the same name to find joy in writing again. While hers is posted live, I keep mine archived, for reasons I will get to shortly. But, this Wednesday post from Collected Rejections gave me pause. Valorie Clark discusses the word “inevitability,” its roots, and the conclusion she comes to is that the only thing that’s inevitable is an end, that gravity will always beat you.
While Valorie simply said she was unsure if humanity was inevitable, I’m going to delve into this concept head-on. Now, Humanity, in the eyes of many scientists, was not inevitable. In fact, many believe that humanity was an accidental byproduct of directionless evolution. I don’t believe this at all. However, human progress is not inevitable, as so well explained by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said:
This quote is mentioned as the basis for an entire student essay by Joe Sutcliffe called “Is Human Progress Inevitable?” which is itself quite a good piece and well worth the read. The gist, the TL;DR if you will, is that people are mistaken in the ideas of modernization theory in which globalization is seen as an inevitability, that the homogenization of humanity is likewise inevitable. I entirely agree with Sutcliffe. The only thing I believe is inevitable is human entropy.
As Farham Street explains, entropy is “a measure of disorder, which explains why life seems to get more, not less complicated as time goes on.” It’s much like “nature’s tax,” if you will. No matter what you do, as time marches forward, everything is devolving into chaos. In my view, the only way to overcome becoming entirely swallowed up by entropy is to leave behind a legacy, something that can be given some sort of permanence.
Some people view their legacies as having children; I actually succeeded on this front by birthing three children. But, besides genetic legacies, human beings have a unique opportunity among creatures on this planet to leave more behind than just their physical remains. We have a chance to leave a lasting impact on our world, and potentially, the universe at large, by putting our ideas to work and affecting the lives of others, hopefully positively. The only immortality that truly exists for humanity is in our works, whether they are widely remembered or not. As long as record of them exists for someone to find, we achieve a sort of immortality that somehow overcomes the entropy that is, in fact, inevitable.
Now, you may recognize that I linked to an article from Biologos early on in this essay. This is, quite obviously, a Christian faith based organization. Well, I partly agree with some of what Darrel Falk writes in his own short essay. He quoted paleontologist Conway Morris as saying:
I don’t agree with Falk that theologians have the answers. That’s not to say theology isn’t useful; it is a remarkably intellectually robust field, actually. What I do agree with is Morris’ overall intent with his own words. I agree that Life is an open-ended adventure, with entropy as the main villain. I also agree that there is more to existence than simply coming into being and then simply ceasing to exist by the very will of entropy. After all, the fact that the Universe clearly has plenty of design put into it proves that it wasn’t a bizarre and happy accident. While I believe the Christian Creation story is extremely oversimplified, it doesn’t contradict evolution at all; all it does is put a Divine Mind behind it, which is something to this day I still full-heartedly believe.
It’s my strong belief that humanity was, in a sense, inevitable, but not so much humanity as we know it. I do not at all believe that the Universe was created specifically for humans; that’s an unnecessarily narrow and selfish viewpoint. However, I believe that sentient species like humans were inevitable because the Universe is simply too beautiful, wondrous, and intelligently designed to not have creatures in it that rise above the beasts and ascend to actively shaping the worlds and systems around them.
This is when I circle back around and tell you what I’ve discovered with the writings of my own Writers Notebook. As I’m writing this, I’m only twelve days into the exercise, and while it sounds awfully cliché, it has changed everything. I can’t tell you how sick and tired I am of reading or hearing the phrase “this changes everything.” But, for my writing, putting permanence to my daily activities in a structured three-pronged way has helped me immensely.
Previously, I’ve had writer’s notebooks; I purposely did not capitalize those words. I used to write in spiral-bound notebooks and more recently Moleskine books. I’ve dabbled with commonplace books plenty of times over the years, but they always become abandoned. That’s because, unfortunately, there are certain things that are difficult to handwrite which are a major part of my existence.
While it may be quite unfortunate, the vast majority of my daily activities revolve around reading things I found online and watching YouTube videos. It would be a horrible chore to write these URLs down. So, I decided to go back to using EverNote and classify all my thoughts under three umbrellas: What’s Been Happening, What I’m Reading, and What I’m Watching.
By doing this, I’ve discovered that there’s significant context provided to these moments that otherwise would go entirely forgotten were they not chronicled in this way. Sure, I used to have my “Pages” series that collected my daily thoughts, but the notes each ended up becoming isolated from one another, disparate and disconnected. And, who knows how many things that should’ve been noted are lost to time, to entropy?
Throughout these past couple of weeks, I’ve been dipping back into the earlier posts on The Phoenix Desertsong and noticed something interesting. While they are all separate topics, a lot of them seem to be very similar, and yet, entirely disconnected and disparate from one another. Now that I’m constantly organizing my thoughts and giving them more permanence, without feeling forced in any way, the organic growth of my current notebooks is creating far more permanent connections in my mind.
Topics are finally beginning to lead into one another. One major article I’m about to write is to become fed by several other shorter essays written recently. The thoughts are flowing from one into another almost seamlessly because there is now organic connection and context given to them. Before, I would write down an idea in total isolation from all the others around it, and many of those ideas still now are but a single line of text, likely to be ignored and forgotten for months or years to come, simply because I don’t know how to connect it to anything else.
That is to say, before I started putting historical importance on every day’s events and what content I’ve been consuming, lots of things I’d write down just remained as trifles, nothing more than something that seemed like a good idea at the time. In 2021, I resolved to putting together a book that collected all of my past articles about writing, and another book that collected all of my motivational and mental health essays. But, these projects fell apart because while the writing was fine, none of them led into one another. It would’ve just been two works of collected essays with nothing to hold them together.
But, now, thanks to my Writers Notebook, I can build up constant momentum by always putting down things in writing. Even an article or video that seems entirely unimportant could later become a topic worth talking about. The nuances of day to day life often contain the greatest writing topics because they’d otherwise be things you’d overlook. Even talking about the games I play and things I watch for leisure is important because it keeps me writing, making connections, and exercising my brain and mind.
I only so much desired to create books of collected works because I didn’t want these essays to be forgotten, lost to entropy. My website isn’t going anywhere any time soon, but I can’t pretend that it will exist forever. This is why I must eventually put the most important and evergreen works from my archives into some sort of collection, so that copies are distributed far and wide.
I suggest that every writer and every sort of artist do this, collect your best work, acquire the necessary copy-writing protections, and get it out there. It doesn’t have to make money; it simply needs to be out there and given absolute permanence in various formats. Our days are all numbered, after all. We may not think that much of our work now, but many artists go unappreciated until years after their demise. Yet, their works overcame entropy, and many works by long-dead authors and creators are still cherished today. Why? Because they understood the importance of leaving a legacy to overcome entropy.
To close what has become a feature-length essay, I will just say this. Intelligent life, for me, is an inevitability in a universe structured like ours. It’s not that humanity was inevitable; I still believe that we were bred to be this way in some way, shape, or form, meaning that other intelligent life beyond our own level of consciousness must inhabit this Universe. There is simply too much to appreciate, to gaze upon, to wonder at, for the Universe not to be required to create beings like us – and likely, we are far from alone in this regard – in order to give the Universe some extra flavor. After all, without flavor, what fun is it to live?