Do you remember the second law of thermodynamics? If you ever knew it, if it didn’t go in one ear and out the other, if you aren’t one of those poor souls who never that the opportunity to experience the Joy of Physics Class.
The second law of thermodynamics is ostensibly about the games that gasses play.
A gas will expand to fill whatever size container it finds itself in. You can squish a lot of gas into a really small container and sure, there’s some high pressure in that little jar, that small canister, but it’ll fit.
You can suck out all but a tiny amount of gas from a really big container, and sure, there’s some really low pressure air in there, which is to say, something like a vacuum, but it works. The gas evenly distributes itself over that large space…
Physical sciences aside, there’s an existential implication to this observation about the natural world. This little bit of wisdom can apply to our lives.
The human mind is a bit like a gas in that second law. It fills, it expands it finds all the nooks and crannies of the box it’s in, the series of boxes it’s in all throughout life. And if we try to cram our minds in tiny boxes, the most amazing things happens, contrary to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.
Habit. Habit happens. (Previously unaccounted for in any law of thermodynamics.) And comfort sets in, and before we know it the tiny box to which we’ve relegated our minds feels like a cozy little cabin by the sea (to say nothing of the fact that we keep tripping over our own feet inside of it) – and who would want to leave such a comfy little place?
But, if we dare to shed that small container and find ourselves in a bigger one, there is a moment of crisis. A moment of extra-low pressure, something almost like a pure vacuum. And this can be a liberating sensation, or a deeply troubling one. We’ve all seen people, and sometimes we’ve been the ones who, when confronted with the possibility of stepping out of that mental headspace, stepping out of that imaginary and tiny seaside cottage… we take only one, perhaps two steps out into the wider world before turning around and heading back in again.
Others take a step outside and experience that same moment of crisis but for whatever reason, and it may be simple obstinacy, they stay outside, despite the discomfort, which eventually dissipates.
Still others take a step outside and let out a happy yell – they always suspected there was more than just the cottage…
Now, we say, take time to live.
And we say, get acquainted with yourself.
Most people are saying, enjoy life.
And even say, get to know God.
But it may be that there is something we need to do before these things, because there’s something like a prelude that has been going on in the background all of this time, and it’s so familiar it’s easy to dismiss – it’s easy to ignore.
Perhaps the first step is really the step that takes us out of whatever tiny mental headspace we find ourselves, whatever imaginary seaside cottage we find ourselves in, whatever tiny little box we’ve stuffed ourselves in, or found ourselves stuffed in.
It’s a metaphor, and really, it only goes so far. But it is a place we can begin – a place where we can all meet, and begin. And so the question tonight is this:
What does it look like? What does that box that encases your mind look like? What is the shape, the texture, the feel? Where are the nooks and cranies that feel so comfortable? Where are those spaces that feel ‘outside the box’ while affording the comfort of never having to leave it? And once you’ve got this, or some idea of it, there’s one last question to consider:
What would it take for you, here, right now, to take a step outside that box that you currently find yourself in?