Ive noticed something about life in Connecticut. Things dont break down here. Everything is in tiptop condition. Every so often you will see a house that looks uncared for, or a garden shed thats leaning perilously. But usually everything is tickety boo. (Thats how we talk in Connecticut.)
In Connecticut, entropy isnt allowed. The forces of disorder and randomness must apply to city hall for a permit before entering the state, and they must keep this permit in plain view AT ALL TIMES. Deterioration, when this does occur, is put right, immediately.
There are two kinds of vehicles: the BMWs and Mercedes of the people who live here and the panel trucks and pickups of those who work here. The expensive cars are always perfect. No chipped paint, no cracked wind shields, no dragging bumpers. The trucks, on the other hand, are often pretty badly beaten up.
This is ironic because these trucks carry the anti-entropy shock troops. These are the guys, mostly, who put things right. These vans, these are the vessels that bear anti-entropy into the state every morning and install it somewhere, on a house or in a shed, say, that the state may revel in yet another day of well fired, well sealed, well enameled perfection. As night draws near, these trucks withdraw noisily from the state in a gesture of by-law enforced deference. No, we dont know where they go. Really, its just important that they leave. (New Jersey, could it be?)
Now, Im a libertarian and this means that I may not write a blistering attack on the tedium of life in the suburbs. And in point of fact, I think this favorite pastime of the intellectuals is a waste of time. Everyone is entitled to live as they want, assuming that they do not infringe on the rights of others in the process. If they want to live with Martha Stewart rectitude, banging! Someones got to keep the faith.
But this doesnt mean that certain ways of living dont have costs, and my sermon today, brothers and sisters of the congregation, treats the costs of being anti-entropic. There is, I think, something very, very, very wrong with not letting things break down. This is not an aesthetic matter, though there is often something beautiful about decay. Its not a moral matter, thought there is something especially interesting about societies that use (and sometimes find themselves suspended between) more than one moral compass.
No, this is a matter of creativity. And heres my theory. I believe that when houses, cars, clothing and gardens break down, something cultural happens. The fine fissures on the object let meaning leak out. No need to call the Nuclear Commission. There is no danger here. The only effect of meanings leakage is that the object in question gives up a little of its cultural definition. And when this happens it consents to our imaginative manipulation in ways it will not do when brand spanking new.
When things break down, cultural codes give up. Cultural ‘types lose their power over ‘tokens. And a certain, crazy cultural reengineering becomes possible. We can now work from the diminished token up to types not anticipated by or specified in the cultural code. In short, convention loses a little of its power over the world and we are free to change this world, or at least the specs from which it comes.
I dont go so far as the “critical social scientists or the Po Mo camp. I dont believe these movements of entropy actually allow for the remaking of the world as a world. But I do think that little departures and diminishments allow for the remaking of the world as an idea. (Nothing happens till we pay the costs of introduction and give the world a chance to vote. This is the problem with, the tragic condition of, “critical social scientists. They forget or refuse the voting part. Revolutions are supposed to carry themselves by the unaided momentum of ineluctable argument.)
Sorry, yes, I was talking about Connecticut. Its perfect, or close to it. And this makes it a “no fly zone for new ideas. They come down Long Island sound, these ideas do, headed for the irresistible bouleversement of New York City. They can see my little town, and fatigued from trans-atlantic travel, they might be persuaded to stop here. But no. There is nothing for them to perch upon. Everything is what it is and not another thing. There are no imperfections that would give a new idea purchase, even briefly, on our shore.
I am sure Ill be fine, but if you dont hear from me for awhile, itll be because I stowed away on one of those panel trucks. Next blogcast, New Jersey!