EM Reprint: Meditation II

2 12 2009

(Originally published July 10, 2006)

Infinity itself looks flat and uninteresting. Looking up into the night sky is looking into infinity — distance is incomprehensible and therefore meaningless. – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I spend too much time contemplating the nature of the infinite. The short and simple truth is, the finite mind cannot comprehend the infinite. And there are plenty of pressing concerns for me or anyone else to apply thought and action to.

I deal largely in semantics, so consider the hook baited when I happen upon a sentence that contains the phrase “a number approaching infinity.” What number is that, exactly? The joke is “infinity minus one”. What science and math has yet to explain is where the jump is made from the finite to the infinite. As far as I can tell, infinity simply Is.

The Tao Te Ching speaks to this by saying,

    The Name that can be spoken
    is not the Eternal Name.

Empirically speaking, this is maddening. But in the course of this contemplation, I have considered the arguments for and against the existence of God, and I think the joke is on everyone (pro and con) by merely using the term “God”. “God” is finite. “God” can be written, talked about, argued for and against, studied, rationalized, accepted, and dismissed. The truly infinite cannot be dismissed. The eternal does not die.

I think the concept of Infinity serves as a good grounding point, actually. There is no need to speak in religious or spiritual terms in order to convey the central message of Infinity: There is always something bigger than you, no matter how hard you try to be the biggest.

After all, a number reaching infinity is still finite. There are practical purposes for calling something vast yet finite “essentially infinite”, such as 600 billion light-years. Try as you might, you will not be able to travel that distance at the speed of light over the course of your lifetime. But, being a finite yet huge number, it can be planned for or aspired to.

I just bought a used book of Tom the Dancing Bug cartoons. One recurring feature is “the Adventures of God-Man”. God-Man is beset on all sides by philosophical dilemmas and existential crises. His solution often-times is to simply restart the development of the universe, rather than solve whatever petty problem (such as foiling a purse-snatching). This series captures the essence of the madness and folly of assigning all too human attributes to something that vastly exceeds our understanding. I consider myself more in line with Deist thought in that I acknowledge the possibility if not certainty that there is a “God”, however, don’t hold your breath waiting for “Him” to “come down here” anytime soon. Again, this is like waiting for a musical note to “come down here”. The wind rustles through the trees and perhaps naturally sounds the note. Was this a divine visitation, or mere chance? And either way, how does this directly affect you, short of perhaps being pleasing to the ear?

The skeptics demand hard evidence of the existence of God, and this is not a terrible proposition, but rather a matter of practicality. If God is proven definitively to exist, will they all convert to Deism or some other religious or spiritual discipline? Or is this simply a matter of shrugging one’s shoulders at the discovery and saying, “huh” and blithely crossing God off of the “yet to be proven” list? I agree that floaty beliefs about things that have not been proven to exist, or be of any value per se should be challenged and I enjoy reading the de-bunking of deeply held beliefs that utterly rely on little more than faith (or self-delusion) than any sort of objective or even subjective supporting evidence. My own reflections and inquiries into the nature of God pretty much lead back to the same starting and ending point: It is best that we get on with this business of living, rather than obsess over matters that vastly exceed our comprehension and divert us from the equally daunting (and yet more satisfying and beneficial) task of knowing ourselves.

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