You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?
Kipple is a word invented by the science fiction author Philip K. Dick for a concept similar to entropy. Here is the passage explaining kipple from Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which was made into the film Blade Runner:
Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday’s home page. When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you to go bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up there is twice as much of it. It always gets more and more.
The novel’s philosopher of kipple, J. R. Isidore (who became J. F. Sebastian in Blade Runner), explains:
…the First Law of Kipple (is that) ‘Kipple drives out nonkipple’… (one) can roll the kipple-factor back… No one can win against kipple, except temporarily and maybe in one spot, like in my apartment I’ve sort of created a stasis between the pressure of kipple and nonkipple, for the time being. But eventually I’ll die or go away, and then the kipple will take over. It’s a universal principal operating throughout the universe; the entire universe is moving towards a final state of total, absolute kippleization.
Kipple is everywhere, and in many ways our lives are defined by how we do battle with kipple. Many people have begun to realize there must be a healthier alternative to the continuous consumption that leads to ever larger masses of kipple crowding our lives, an alternative variously called minimalism or simplicity. Kipple is nothing if not resilient, however, and the twin engines of entropy and capitalism keep churning it out at an incredible rate. Notes the technovelgy.com entry on kipple:
Kipple seems to be a combination of entropy and capitalism. I don’t think past civilizations had the resources to produce so much packaging to hold our stuff until we buy it or consume it.
…Physicists will note the similarity to the concept of entropy, which is most usually taken to refer to the tendency of closed systems toward increasing disorder.
I like the definition taken from classical thermodynamics, that entropy is a quantitative measure of the amount of thermal energy not available to do work. In the 21st century, we seem to be working as hard as we can to take available resources and transform them into objects that cannot be used for anything (kipple).
Kipple is the perfect word to describe the entropic clutter filling our houses, our cities, our computers and our minds. It’s a very sweet word, gentle and disarming, but, just like the physical stuff of kipple, it sneaks up on you. And when the balance swings way over to the side of kipple, you get hoarders. Daniel Rourke has a great essay about kipple and hoarding, Kipple and Things, over at 3 Quarks Daily. It brings into the mix some early Philip K. Dick stories, the lists of Jorge Luis Borges, and the story of the Collyer brothers, Homer and Langley, who withdrew into their New York City mansion until they were found dead in 1947, killed by–and absorbed into–the kipple they had piled up around themselves for decades. Rourke references the Wikipedia list of objects pulled from the Collyer house, noting that it “reads like a Borges original”:
Items removed from the house included baby carriages, a doll carriage, rusted bicycles, old food, potato peelers, a collection of guns, glass chandeliers, bowling balls, camera equipment, the folding top of a horse-drawn carriage, a sawhorse, three dressmaking dummies, painted portraits, pinup girl photos, plaster busts, Mrs. Collyer’s hope chests, rusty bed springs, a kerosene stove, a child’s chair, more than 25,000 books (including thousands about medicine and engineering and more than 2,500 on law), human organs pickled in jars, eight live cats, the chassis of an old Model T Ford, tapestries, hundreds of yards of unused silks and fabric, clocks, 14 pianos (both grand and upright), a clavichord, two organs, banjos, violins, bugles, accordions, a gramophone and records, and countless bundles of newspapers and magazines.
Finally: There was also a great deal of rubbish.
Yes, finally we get to the rubbish, as if the rest of the debris wasn’t rubbish. But of course it wasn’t–it was kipple. Whether on the floor or in the drawer, the tabletop or the shelves, in the attic or in the crawlspace, on the lawn or out back in the garden shed, kipple is everywhere, and ever growing. It is the great plague on Civilization, and in many ways it defines our lives through multiple phases that all exist simultaneously: 1) acquisition of kipple; 2) management of kipple; 3) purging of kipple. Only death can free us from kipple; unfortunately, then loved ones inherit our kipple, and the cycle continues. All we can do to counteract the force of kipple is to make an effort to consume less, recycle more, throw more away, and love and laugh as much as possible. The New Yorker cartoon, below, gets right to the crux of the kipple problem.