The Process of Aging and The Second Law of Thermodynamics

I’ve noticed recently that people in my sphere of relationship-ivity seem to be passing away at an alarming rate. I suppose it was inevitable that as I aged, the number of people that I know or have known would increase. There will be months with no activity and then poof, a posse of people will pass. In fact just this past year, a couple of former coworkers and several golf buddies passed away, child hood friends have lost one or more of their parents, and an increasing number of childhood heroes are disappearing from my radar screen. All that and increasingly I personally experience and continue to hear about the aches, pains, and ailments of my friends and family. I can’t meet for drinks or lunch without the inevitable discussion of our medical war stories. The implication being that we are all aging out and headed towards the happy hunting ground.

Statistically, I guess this all makes sense, since there is a mean, median, and mode to the life span distribution. In addition to that, most of the people I associate with are around the same age as me, so their parents and relatives age would be arranged in a like distribution. Probably the reason that we of the AARP generation read the daily obituary column as if it were a horoscope.

There is a law of physics called “The Second Law of Thermodynamics” which states that entropy (disorder) is always increasing. It turns out that there is a huge body of knowledge supporting the belief that age changes are characterized by increasing entropy, which results in the random loss of molecular fidelity, and accumulates to slowly overwhelm maintenance systems. In other words, the very molecules that make up our bodies and enable the biologic functions of our bodies are gradually losing their ability to perform said functions. And hence we age and slowly decay.

All of this analytical crap is not very consoling, and is probably just the way my mind deals with loss. Searching for the reason that things happen the way they do is a part of human nature. We all deal with this end of life question differently, with acceptance being the most difficult step in the Kubler-Ross model of psychobabble bologna. Personally, I tend to accept the death of my mortal body as a part of life. It is a terminal condition for which there is no cure. My opinion on that topic may change once the bodily decay really kicks into overdrive. I think that we all talk a good game until, as Sherlock Holmes often says, the game is afoot.

In the past, I have had some dealings with hospice. Now don’t get me wrong, these folks were like angels and made “the process” far more palatable, but it did seem to be a little weird. Hospice calls it “the process” and walks you through “the process” so that you are not surprised when “the process” goes to completion.

I suppose that I am just a dude in the early stages of “the process”, but have relatively minor symptoms such as graying hair, aching lower back, and a recently injured shoulder that is slowly killing me. As old number 7 once said “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

And they laughed the laugh of the damned.

All content copyright of Christopher Hammond