Fighting Entropy

October 24, 2019


It was almost midnight.

A few hours before, we had returned from a trip to New Hampshire and Vermont. We were all tired, but that didn’t stop Robert from unpacking all our things and placing them where they belonged. Pills returned to medicine cabinet, toothbrushes to bathrooms, unconsumed food  to the fridge, and dirty clothes to the washing machine. After Robert filled the machine with dark clothes, he met me at the dining room table for an hour or so of learning. He searched for the worksheets I had hidden to keep our learning to a minimum that evening. He found them and insisted on completing them . He didn’t allow our daily routine to be changed.

He did, however, took a few short breaks to check the status of the laundry, switch clean, dark clothes to the drier and start a new cycle with lightly colored clothes.

He also mixed a box of pineapple jello with hot and cold water and placed it in the fridge. Then he took his evening bath.

He was tired and sleepy. He went to bed. We, his parents, did too.

Hardly, we closed our eyes when we were awaken by Robert dragging a hamper with dark clothes.

“Go to sleep Robert.  We will put clothes away tomorrow.  Go to sleep”

But sleep he couldn’t. He had to fold or hang all the clothes. Then he went to bed.  As soon as we  sighted in relief, Robert turned the light on in the kitchen. He remembered his pineapple jello. It couldn’t remain in the fridge until morning. He had to eat it. Then, and only then he went to bed.

But not for long. After an hour he was awaken by the call of the lightly colored clothes coming from the drier. They could not be left there tangled with each other in one big mess. So a few minutes before midnight, Robert took them out and patiently carried them to their proper drawers and closets.  Only when he finished we all could finally sleep.

Robert doesn’t tolerate unpredictability.  He tries to make sure that his universe changes as little as possible.  He wants the order  of things to remain undisturbed. He craves simple patterns that repeat themselves.

Years ago he failed a simple test made of questions requiring “yes” or “no” answers.  Without bothering himself with reading, he answered “yes, no, yes, no, yes, no”.  He wanted a clear pattern not a chaotic set of “yes” and “no”.

Even now, when while working with language cards, I use the card No 14 after card number 10, Robert answers the question but puts the card aside until he answers questions on cards 11, 12, and 13. Then he returns the card 14 to the pile.

In efforts to maintain the structure of the world as he knows it, Robert creates separated knots or strings of people and events. There was a time when only some people could take him to McDonald or to Five Guys. Moreover, those people could take him to those places only on specific days. Tomorrow, we could go to the Zoo, but not to the orchard to pick up apples. For apples we can go on Saturday not on Friday.

It is I who tries to increase the entropy of Robert’s world by having him to tolerate more possibilities, more places to go, things to do, by changing orders of his patterns. By doing so, I learned that entropy is not just chaos but also freedom.







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