Infirmity is so revealing. The human condition is informed by it, a notion Bob Dylan put better when he sang, “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

Case in point: Some weeks ago I was attempting to jimmy the end pin off an exercise balloon so I could inflate it with a bicycle pump. The pin wouldn’t budge with my fingernail, so I tried with a sharp knife.

Bad idea.

Naturally, as these things do, the knife slipped and punctured my thumb. There was a momentary pinch of pain and some bleeding, but not much, so after soaping it off and wrapping it with a bandage, I forgot about it.

For the record, the pin eventually yielded to my efforts but the bicycle pump needle didn’t precisely fit the exercise ball valve, so for all my efforts, there wasn’t much improvement.

The thumb didn’t improve either. Far from healing, it developed a minor infection just beneath the skin, with a small callous on the surface to show for it. Evidently a sliver of metal or plastic or rubber had lodged there. It wasn’t painful unless I accidentally bumped it, which of course I tried to avoid. But that wasn’t easy: thanks to evolution the thumb comes into play all the time, it’s a veritable busy-body of human digits, involved in all manner of everyday operations.

In any case, whether I bumped it or not, it wasn’t getting any better.

Now came the difficult choice: Ignore it, tend to it myself or go see the doctor. None was good. Ignore it and it might get worse; fix it myself meant digging around with a sterilized needle, which could inflame the infection; and seeing a doctor for something so minor seemed crazy.


Such choices arise all the time.

I made an appointment with my doctor. Ordinarily this would be routine, but leaving the house and spending time (albeit just a little, from a distance and wearing a mask) with all manner of potentially disease-spreading strangers carried some, possibly considerable, risk.

My physician, whom I very much like and respect, was more or less stymied. He tried scraping out the infected site with a sterilized razor-like instrument. No luck.

“You’ll have to see a hand doctor and get it X-rayed,” he informed me glumly.

What? A specialist to remove a tiny foreign object? An X-ray for something so trivial? What would have taken my mother and your mother and generations of mothers going back thousands of years about 10 minutes to fix now involved numerous NorthShore Connect messages, two doctors’ visits, an X-ray, doubtless hundreds if not thousands of dollars in cost and hours of wasted time.

Entropy is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. In simplest terms it states that everything and everyone is eventually destined for disorder and death (cf. Dylan lyric).

Lestropy, the Second Law of Dermaldynamics, states that all activities in modern society are destined for greater inconvenience, complexity and cost.

In other words, reverse entropy.

Welcome to the world of modern physics.