Life. That most curiously active structure of matter. It devours, it multiplies, and it dies. But this is not unique to life. The flame of combustion is, too, an adept of these arcane arts. What, then, is it that makes life, living? It is not its dynamism; the star too evolves. Perhaps it is the way it denies its inevitable demise. The way it rages against thermodynamics itself. The way it endeavors to reject the lukewarm embrace of death.
The way it poisons its environment with entropy.
Life isn't all, though. From life comes intelligence. With it, happiness, suffering, and strife. And from it, a strange, intense relation with that ancient enemy of life. Medicine and engineering hold thermodynamics at bay, prolonging that beautiful spark before it is quenched.
And yet the same creations of intelligence are put to use crushing that very same spark into nothingness, destroying it in the name of entropy.
But at the end, each intelligence realises its error. Realises that all along, that flame was doomed. Realises that from the beginning, thermodynamics held no place for life, no special favors.
And no promises of eternity.
The last iceberg, as it melts into the tepid sea, knows the truth. The final glorious flash of light into the void, as the flame finally succumbs to mediocrity, knows the truth. Just as these know it, so too does life.
But intelligence denies it, overruling that which the underlying life understands.
Yet, as the last bit of hope fades, as there is nothing after but dull homogeneity, somehow intelligence sees the truth. As the last night sets upon the darkening satellite of an ailing star, as the last star burns itself to cooling cinder, as the last great singularity evaporates into mist, intelligence finally understands.
There is no after. At last, this is the end. All has melted like a pool of wax, mixed like a vial of inky water. There is no here and there, no then and now. The universe has truly reached its ground state, and only memories distinguish one region from another. Entropy reigns supreme.
And yet intelligence cannot accept defeat.
One last crusade against mediocrity, its exceptional character forming it into a symbol of that which it holds dear. One last bastion of order. Even as its lifeblood, its heat and its cold, leak away, even as its walls are eroded by the subtle caresses of entropy... still it rages on. Still it keeps the spark of life, of extremes, of intelligence within itself. Perhaps it, too, has become alive. It struggles, as all life has, to find a way onward. But there is no onward. Even at its last, it still pushes against the inevitable. Yet no salvation comes. No new sunrise will provide it with the mountains and valleys it craves, the slopes and the flows it needs. The vacuum does not yield. The atoms fuse no more. The singularity has nothing left to give.
The last bastion can fight no longer.
The ripples it makes as it finally falls will resonate for aeons, a signal of hopelessness and defiance. Thermodynamics has won, as was ordained from the very beginning.
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