The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics & You the Acupunk

To me perhaps the best thing that the science of physics has ever done is come up with are the laws of Thermodynamics, especially the 2nd law. That 2nd law is the one which states that entropy increases over time. Basically that means that a) systems move from a high energy state to a lower one; chaos increases. There are a lot of implications of the 2nd law but time and again it is found to be operative in all systems. Evolution follows the 2nd law; so does quantum mechanics.

Entropy applies of course to humans too and how we live. To me all the writings and speeches and discussions of philosophy and religion and metaphysics- everything that you might include under those banners- can be looked at (If you turn your head just so) as so many attempts to come to terms with entropy. Again, in my opinion, the great spiritual leaders of history- Jesus, the Buddha, Mohammed, and especially Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu (who particularly speak directly about entropy) etc. are great precisely because they had/have come to terms with entropy: they know that enlightenment, however you phrase it- is a playing out of entropy in an individual human. It is Peace. It is Acceptance. It is aligning with the World and God.

Of course almost all of us humans aren’t enlightened. We aren’t Sri Ramakrishna. We aren’t spiritual giants. But we do our best in little and large endeavors. We all try for greater peace in our lives; we try to reduce stress, which is a state of low entropy. As Kaiser Permanente wrote to me in a pamphlet several years ago, 80% of all illness is caused by stress and since they are a big HMO I figure that they are underestimating things by perhaps 20%.

So we try. Within the U.S. Acupuncture profession I tend to find most of the people trying for greater Peace. From my observations of our profession, people quote often first decide to become acupunks because receiving Acupuncture has been a great benefit to themselves and they want to spread that benefit to others: family members, friends, even strangers. People quite often go into the Acupuncture profession from other careers in other professions. Its part of their search for greater Peace in their lives. Hey I’m one of them. I had been a geologist, and urban planner, and a high school teacher before settling down to this Acupuncture stuff. Most of the other students in my Acupuncture school were coming from other careers also. We were all searching for greater Peace in our own lives. Still are.

But here’s where it got funky: How to develop greater Peace in oneself while trying to reach out to others, which is to say while setting up a private practice. While in school we were told the conventional way to practice, which I call the Boutique model. But for most of us the Boutique model represents a Complication in our lives, a resistance to Peace and entropy. The model tells us to among other things to charge for our services that we ourselves can’t afford. (I know this to be true from the number of acupunks I have treated.) Doing this- charging higher prices than what one can afford- is a move away from Peace in one’s life. It makes you work for an image instead of yourself and that’s just wrong. Naturally that’s a big reason why so many acupunks fail in their business because if you aren’t really actually happy in doing what you are doing you aren’t gonna attract patients.

Now some Punks are copasetic in charging high prices and take to the advice of buying a Lexus so your patients can see that you are successful. It fits into their life. That’s fine for them. But I’d say that’s not true for 80%+ of the profession. Its a working away from their initial impulses to take up the Art. Most Punks though take up Boutique practice because they a) don’t know what else to do and b) their money worries get them to make wrong decisions. Sooner or later on one level or another they realize that what they are doing runs against their needs for a more sane life and they drop out of the profession.

It doesn’t have to be that way. But we practicing CA Punks need to change our profession to see that there are other options besides a high end Boutique practice. Why? Because our impulse to treat other humans extends not only to our patients but to our brother and sister acupunks too. We must break the current culture of competition that exists in our field as it creates stress which we pass on to ourselves and our patients. It doesn’t have to be that way.

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics always wins out. We can choose how the law wins though. We can choose Suffering or Peace. Lets choose the latter and work together.

Skip Van Meter
Author: Skip Van Meter

Skip is Lead Acupuncturist and Co-Founder of <a href="" target="_blank">Working Class Acupuncture</a> in Portland, Oregon. With the earlier part of his life spent acquiring knowledge about geology, urban planning and teaching high school, he has now been an acupuncturist for 19 years, using about a 1,750,000 needles poking his patients. He likes all things soccer, has three fabulous sons, the best wife in the world, and a great dog and two cool cats.

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  1. Great Post

    I was one of those acupunks who was very far from peaceful in my “boutique” experience.  Now I have a sense of peace in my work even when I’m under the normal stress of starting a new business. 

  2. Interesting essay

    Skip, as a non-physicist, I always thought the second of thermodynamics was talking about inertia.  Are we going toward Peace or toward Inertia.  Could you speak to that, and also say more about how the philosophers of the world had to “come to terms” with entropy?  Thanks.


  3. peace

    In a spiritual context, I guess I would equate entropy (to the extent that I understand the science of that) to the Buddhist law of impermanence. Everything (all phenomenon subject to causes and conditions) is constantly changing…basically disintegrating. There is not even an atom we can cling to and hold on to. Certainly not these bodies, our business, our professional standing, etc.

    As soon as these bodies are born, they start to decay, thus begins the inevitable march towards death. I never quite understood Deepak Chopra’s “Ageless Body”, though I confess I never opened the cover of that book. Maybe he is talking about some other kind of body…mental body perhaps.

    Similarly, our concepts and ideas are flying around like a Los Angeles freeway at rush hour. We miss the ultimate truth – that the mind which holds all of that rush hour conceptualizing is like an infinite blue sky. We see only the traffic jam, but miss the liberating insight which is always directly in front of us.

    “My way is better than your way”…or so we may secretly think without saying so, trying externally to be peaceful when our ego-conditioned mind struggles to navigate the stormy internal ocean of thought.

    I know I’m not enlightened. Everybody else on the planet might be, all appearing for my benefit in a last ditch effort to save the last unenlightened sentient being. Regardless, I know that it is possible to achieve enlightenment. The rain barrel is filled one drop at a time.

     “By generating a mind of compassion and loving kindness,

    And by completely severing the continuum that clings to holding a self,”

    May I be blessed to quickly attain the highest state

    Of Mahamudra, through the path of total integration.” 

    (from the praises and supplication to the Gelukpa Mahamudra lineage, Yongdzin Yeshe Gyetson, trans. Janice D. Willis, Enlightened Beings, Wisdom Publications, 1995).