Everyday entropy: ride the bull


When was the last time a motivational speaker gave advice like “wait for the storm to pass.”  That’s for spiritual leaders like Jesus and Buddha and maybe for non-violent resisters like Gandhi and King.  It seems antithetical to the notion of proactive problem solving, but it is the smartest thing to do in many situations.  Flying a helicopter, for one, and when you’re riding a bull, entropy is your only friend.  Bull riders need to be strong, and they work hard, but every ounce of energy they use goes into active shock absorption.  If a bull rider tries to fight the bull, he will lose.  Every time.  Any energy that goes into anything other than absorbing shock and finding balance benefits the bull, not the rider.

Bull riding and big wave surfing are quintessential examples of asymmetrical power dynamics, but crime reduction, counter-terrorism and anti-extremist efforts should all follow their lead.  Anger, for reasons that are obvious but not well-defined, is  more powerful than patience, negotiation or rational decision-making.  In fact, there are no situations where fighting or suppressing anger leads to conflict resolution (World War II, it should be noted, ended in annihilation, not resolution).  What is essential in conflict is to fall back on the constraints you can control, and apply or remove them so as to dampen the resonance and achieve balance.  In the meantime, entropy is your friend.  Let it work for you.

Successful people ignore entropy in part because it never seems like the solution to a problem, and when it does, it seems lazy.  More importantly, entropy doesn’t single out any one person as the hero.  Being successful is about being a hero.  This is why politicians respond to violence in exactly the way that they shouldn’t.  They feel compelled to be heroic, and stupid.


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