austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

'Cause I've learned the organization's bigger than me

There is such a thing as being too organized. Specifically, it would be too organized if you were to assemble all the matter in the universe together in a single, infinitesimally tiny pile, thus instigating a new Big Bang which would destroy this universe and create a new one possibly with radically different physical laws. It's a good thing that we know there is this limit to organization since it takes off the pressure to achieve perfection. Even the most natural pile- and category-maker will decide things are sorted enough when they've only put together enough of the universe to create a galaxy-consuming anomaly in the nature of spacetime.

But it's usually easiest to stop organizing long before then. I find that I've judged the universe around me to be sufficiently organized when I notice I'm spending time determining whether two socks that look like they almost have the same color are actually ``a pair'' of socks, or whether they're merely two socks which happen to share some critical sock nature. Then another part of me points out that by sharing this critical sock nature they become ``a pair'' of socks, even if they are not a traditionally ``matched'' pair. The logical conclusion is that any two socks form a legitimate pair of socks, with the grounds for their pairing being their collection into a pair. With this depth of reasoning you can see why my organizational efforts come to an end long before I alphabetize my DVDs.

Another natural limit to organization is that things disappear as they are given order. That has been a persistent minor weird symptom ever since organization was invented four thousand years ago by Amit Anu, who has since been lost but was believed to be near the start of the alphabet. It's probably a universal phenomenon.

Consider that new box of paperclips which would be very convenient except that the plastic case can't be opened except by breaking off the tabs which are supposed to be used to open it, and even then the case won't open. It sits on the coffee table for months, staring sullenly and waiting for its chance to attack the remote control. But I finally get to work, taking off the table the case of paperclips, the six paperback books, the burned-out light bulb, the shiny piece of hematite bought for $1.49 from the science store sixteen years ago, the napkins neatly folded, the remote control, and the old disposable camera I thought I had brought in to get turned into photographs years ago. By the time I set everything back the table is missing. It's on the other side of the sofa, and I shouldn't ask how it got there because that shows it had always been there and my mental map of the room was wrong as can be. Even when I have this back in order, if such a thing is possible, there's not enough space on the table to fit everything: table space itself has disappeared.

A more extreme form becomes apparent from putting the entire home, including every room and every drawer, cabinet, closet, shoebox, and pile of mail anticipated to be boring, through a good organizing process. If the energy of the organizer doesn't fail the result is likely to be an entire room gone. Everyone agrees there should be a study, or a guest room, or maybe even the kitchen. Yet only the subtlest forensic analysis can pin down exactly where the room had been. It's just gone missing, and the building adjusts however possible to make that seem normal.

The room has been detached from the house and is wandering through the infinite-dimensional phase space of mild untidiness. Lost rooms then herd together with rooms dissociated from other homes and if lucky may spontaneously assemble into a proper building. This process is observed as suburban sprawl, and its critically random nature is why it defies rational planning.

The case of paperclips won't open because there's cellophane tape holding together the sides. Peel it off and the case will open easily, thanks to the earlier breaking off of the tabs meant to hold it closed.

Trivia: Moses Bruines Cotsworth founded the International Fixed Calendar League in 1922, after George Eastman espoused the idea. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: Maxwell's Demon: Why Warmth Disperses and Time Passes, Hans Christian von Baeyer.

(And hey, cute, Coati Day at the Cohanzick Zoo in Bridgeton, New Jersey. A trio of coatis are coaxed out of their building and the response to the shadows is taken, two noses to one, to forecast the rest of winter since, well, what else are you going to do when you're in southern New Jersey in early February?)

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