What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: cybercassie
The second law of thermodynamics posits that “the entropy of an isolated system not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium.”
In layman’s terms, this essentially means that things have a natural tendency to break down over time, going from order to chaos. This, in a nutshell, is entropy: a gradual decline into chaos and disarray.
Hugh Nibley once wrote an fascinating treatise on order and chaos as it pertains to the temple titled The Meaning of the Temple (it’s well worth a read). Throughout the article he discusses the nature and purpose of the temple as it relates to these two elements (order and chaos). Stating that we cannot save ourselves from entropy, Nibley teaches that someone else must be there to do it:
Notice what atonement means: reversal of the degradative process, a returning to its former state, being integrated or united again—”at-one.” What results when particles break down? They separate. Decay is always from heavier to lighter particles. But “atonement” brings particles back together again. Bringing anything back to its original state is at-one-ment. According to the law of nature (those are Jacob’s words—according to the first principle), that could never happen.
And so in the temple we learn of Christ, He who effectuated the Atonement that we might be led from corruption to incorruption. Just as evolution requires an intelligent being at the helm to be feasible, so too does any type of chaos necessitate intervention to be put in order.
Also of note is this talk by President Kimball wherein he discusses how the home (a microcosm of the temple itself) is where chaos can be made into order.
The temple is not the only instance of symbolic order and chaos. The gospel is replete with such instances, as our eternal progression itself hinges on fighting off chaos and maintaining order through a higher power. Baptism is another such symbol, as Jeff Lindsay explains:
As one can read in the works of Mircea Eliade and others, such as Jewish scholar Jon Levenson (see his tremendous book, Sinai and Zion), the symbolism associated with ancient temples also includes the concept of taming the waters of chaos. Subterranean water beneath the Temple can symbolize primordial chaos conquered by the power of God in the Creation, and also represent the world of the dead. In this ancient paradigm, the temple is the axis mundi, the great axis of the world that joins the realms of the dead, the living, and the heavens. How well that concept fits with the restored LDS Temple, where the baptismal font, the lowest part of the Temple, provides the symbolic subterranean water in a sense, and plays a role in joining the realm of the dead to the living, freeing the dead who accept the Gospel and offering them the blessings of the heavens.
Just as through the Atonement we come out of a chaotic life into an orderly resurrection and eternal life, so too through baptism do we symbolically arise from the chaotic waters, born again into order.
Our quest in this life is to continually fight off the chaos that is everywhere prevalent. Without constant intervention, entropy will surely take effect and drag us down. As Nibley said:
The modern world is as unstable as a decaying isotope, but the temple has always been the same. The ordinances are those taught by an angel to Adam.
The eternal gospel of Jesus Christ is the key to bringing order to the chaos of our lives.