When we first saw the house we ended up buying and are now living in, it looked like a fine example of the human triumph against the universe.
The developer bought a huge piece of land on a side of a hill in a small town between the capital and the coast, then proceeded to carve 9 houses into it, each with a perfect lawn in the back and a driveway in front. The forest behind our house seemed to maintain utmost respect for the boundary that sepearated it from our property. The smell, the sounds and the sights it was offering to us appeared to be a free bonus. The whole package was akin to the first chapter of an exciting book we could choose how to finish. It wasn’t hard to imagine our lives in the paradise we were about to engineer. As soon as we pick the right tiles.
Actually living in a house is, of course, a different experience. Sure, there are countless zen moments. In fact, I just spent 30 minutes outside, enjoying a summer evening, listening to the song of crickets, breathing fresh air produced by hundreds of different plants I still can’t name, resting my eyes on the leaves of hazelnut trees, struck from above by the moonlight and, from below, by our garden lights. But for every such minute enjoyed, there are at least 10 spent fighting entropy.
The universe was created some 14 billion years ago and has been expanding since. It seems to have little regard for my idea of a perfect lawn. The two-faced forest behind our house has been spraying our fertile land with all kinds of seeds. Every year, a different random plant seems to win. I try desperately to control the flora on my property, but have so far been less than efficient. My lawn is like a botanical garden of the world’s ugliest weeds, except that botanical gardens look planned, whereas my lawn looks like a herbal battlefield where a different army prevails every few weeks. You’d hope that deer, which occasionally emerge from the woods, would eat some of them. But bastards prefer my wife’s roses.
Entropy manifests itself in many places around my house, not just the lawn. A few of the perfect tiles we picked are now broken because the house decided to sink by an inch. Hornets like making a nest every few years in the hardest to reach spot below the roof. It costs a lot to have someone else clean the whole house properly and it stays clean for about 17 milliseconds. This, of course, is an exaggeration. It is impossible to have someone else clean your house properly.
If you cling onto a vision of a house that’s always clean and surrounded by perfect tiles and a perfect lawn, without dangerous hornets hanging around, only well behaved deer that pose for your Instagram post instead of sneaking in to eat your flowers and then running away, a real house in the real world will make you feel like a failure, most of the time. So I’ve decided to let go of that vision. I admire my neighbour, Mr Jones, who just won’t give up. He seems determined to fight the universe till the end. To be honest, he seems to be winning. Unlike ours, his house is amazing.
If you’re like me and you’re thinking an apartment would have been more practical, don’t think you can avoid entropy. You’re fighting it in the areas of your life that aren’t housing. Raising children, managing a team, investing, growing vegetables, etc. – are all wars against the universe. I often wonder how fiercely I should fight them vs. just go with the flow.
The universe can be more benign than we think. Even a friend diguised as an enemy. It’s often us that are in its way, rather than vice versa. I don’t know. Some of those weeds that have survived my last counter-attack aren’t that ugly. There is something about them. Resilience, if anything. Maybe they are trying to teach me something. Maybe it’s me who doesn’t get it.