My boss, a devout born again Baptist, believed the earth, and all life on it, and the universe as well were just over 6000 years old and in that time nothing had changed, life had not evolved at all. He also trusted his GPS to get him where he was going and did not want to talk about the relative nature of time or the quantum world and all of its unique conundrums that powered the cell phone which was constantly at his ear. It took me years to come up with the following response. I should also note that when I teach enthalpy to my chemistry students I tell them that enthalpy, as a quantity, cannot be measured, that only the change in enthalpy can be measured. And nothing happens without a change in enthalpy, life doesn’t happen without a change in enthalpy.
"Entropy and Enthalpy"
by Glenn R. McGlaughlin
To prove his point, that complexity could not arise from simplicity or chaos, a man took apart his own jet airplane, set the parts in neat piles and waited. And waited knowing full well the parts would just sit there in piles. He ignored what was around him, did not understand that the rule said that what was around him was part of this, too, that his piles were meaningless. And then he railed at the Wind, at the Wind of all things, saying only he, the man, had heard; only he knew. Only he didn’t know. Eventually, he left but not certain of which direction to go he typed the destination into his GPS and then followed, without question, the voice he had chosen. Certain now of his path, his time, and certain of time, he told me how much time there had been, he told the Wind how much there had been, and strode away confident, certain. And the four clocks, all with different time, faster and slower at once, kept him from falling off a cliff, just as they would anyone. And the Wind blew, just as it always had, waiting for someone to listen.
I watched the young oak grow.
I watched the old pine die.
I watched mist rise from the lake at sunrise.
I watched dew fall and disappear.
I measured those changes
And I knew that was all I could do.
I looked up and out into a bounded and boundless expanding sky
And I knew I could not know all.
After spending nearly 30 years laboring in the chemical and plastics industries along with a half dozen years in a family convenience store business Glenn McGlaughlin has found himself, quite miraculously, in a place where he often thought he should have been all along – a high school science classroom.
As Glenn turns 63, he has just completed his second full year of teaching. He works at Methacton High School in Eagleville, PA and teaches both Academic Chemistry and Academic Physics. “Academic” in this case means he teaches students who are, typically, in the lower half of the class ranking and, nearly universally, either dislike science or at least think chemistry and physics are irrelevant. Finally, at the end of his career, Glenn has found his dream job!
Note: this poem was previously published in “Observing Changes in Enthalpy”a self-published volume of poems and essays by Glenn R. McLaughlin. (Absurdly Normal Books, 2013)