One of my favourite concepts is infinity. I used to tease my students with the notion that if we had a chance to travel in a straight line in space, we would never stop and we would never encounter a wall. In relation to time, infinity means forever. In regard to space, infinity is limitless. Scientists have tried to calculate the beginning of time and space. Referring to this moment as the Big Bang, they have concluded that the Universe (as close a synonym for infinity as I can imagine) was created almost 14 billion years ago. Every year, during this lesson, one of my students would tease me back by asking; “What came before the Universe?”
Because infinity is so incomprehensible we prefer to think in a finite way. Sorting things into boxes brings us a sense of order. Scheduling things on a calendar or in a day-timer app on our cell phones gives us a feeling that when we start something it will have a predictable finish. Thinking in a finite way reduces randomness and gives us the illusion of control. How else are we to comprehend the vastness of time and space if we don’t create within it, a structure?
In relationships we may romanticize the idea that a special union, like a marriage, can last at least as ‘long as ye both shall live’. ‘Forever and Ever’ is how we may conclude a prayer in the security of believing that some things never end. Organized religion and other power structures have helped us to feel calmer about the shortness of our individual lives in relation to the infinite expanse of time and space. We are encouraged to think that our spirits will live on and our earth will last for future generations. However, we all know that someday our bodies will cease to support and transport our essence. There is no practical way, save for Cryogenics, to extend our body’s natural life span. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Bedford
The Metis flag is an infinity character on a blue background, symbolically suggesting that a people lasts forever. Indigenous people have an oral history that indicates reverence for the natural and lasting world. Currently, in Canada and elsewhere, aboriginal tribes have gathered to protest against political structures that don’t recognize the sacredness of Earth. When I was a child summer seemed to last forever. I felt secure that water would always flow clean and the land would always grow stuff. I worry that I, along with my white ancestors, have messed up the planet so badly that my grandchildren will inherit an environmental apocalypse.
We are about to begin a new calendar year. We will talk for a while about new possibilities or a fresh start. We may encourage our young folk to believe that their lives contain infinite opportunities. I’m hoping that I will do more than wishful thinking. I am an idealist at heart. Perhaps I’m hopeful in a similar fashion as a grade two student who once said she liked me, “Infinity plus one.”