Thoughts on Infinity

I fancy myself a bit of a romantic realist, which sounds like a contradiction in terms, but hear me out. Romanticism is focused on the emotional aspects of human life, nature and humanity, the power of the human imagination. The realist is much more pragmatic, focused mainly on seeing things for what they are, and finding the truth in every situation. Essentially, a realist never exaggerates, and a romantic does nothing but. But despite the apparent dichotomy created by these two ways of thinking, I nevertheless believe it is possible to make these two terms congruous. I think one can take the emphasis on connection found in romanticism and combine it with the need for logic and truth present in realism. I only bring this up because the things that I am about to say may strike some of you as a little out of character, that is to say, they aren’t cynical or sarcastic.

Everything in the universe is made out of atoms. Literally everything, from the stars to your shoes to your grandmother. The only difference is the way that the atoms are arranged. Every time you look into a mirror, you are witnessing just one of the infinite possible conglomeration of atoms possible. This means that inside you lives the potential to be everything else. As comedian Russell Brand said “ Everything that is beautiful in the universe is inside of you.” By the same token, everything that is evil and ugly in the world lives inside us as well. Everybody had an infinite potential for creation and an infinite potential for destruction, and that makes us infinitely responsible for the things that happen in the world. Am I my brother’s keeper? Of course I am, how can I not be?

But all of this power and responsibility kind of obsoletes itself, doesn’t it? After all, if everybody is powerful and beautiful and evil then nobody is, right? Well, I don’t think that’s quiet right. How can pain or beauty make itself redundant simply by existing? How does the fact that something is present in abundance give you the right to ignore it? The existence of a copious amount of something does not make it pointless, it makes it more potent, more powerful. We are all infinitely powerful, capable of determining the way that the world works. Now I’m not saying that a single person can take down an army. But, actually, I’m saying exactly that. In every individual resides the power to change everything. By virtue of existing, you already have.

When I was in the fourth grade there was a boy whose name I have forgotten who changed the way I thought of myself and the way I interacted with the people around me. Everyday when the class would stand up to say the pledge of allegiance he would remain seated, and my 9 year old mind found this grotesque. His seat happened to be situated beside mine, and one day I decided that I would let him know just how horrible a person he was. As we were sitting down from pledging, I quickly leaned over and whispered “You Monster” at him. As it turns out he was a Jehovah’s Witness. They don’t make pledges at all, it’s against their religion. When I learned this I felt evil because in that moment I had been evil. Ironically, I don’t pledge allegiance to the flag anymore, not out of disrespect for this country but rather a greater respect for humanity. What I didn’t realize about this boy was that he and I were the same person. We were arranged differently, but that was all. At an atomic level we were exactly the same. Am I my brother’s keeper? Of course I am. I am my brother.

I think the biggest problem facing society today is the fact that we have steadfastly refused to accept that humanity is one giant, pulsating unit, and that individualism is a dangerous and incorrect way to thing of the world. We are each microcosms of the universe, but we are not our own universe. We are instead cogs and wheels and bolts of a greater machine, a mechanism that could be called life or infinity or everything. If one of the pieces stops working, it will throw the entire machine out of motion. But you see, the piece on its own means nothing. It has the potential to mean everything, but as long as it is outside of the machine, it can’t help, it can’t do anything. Humans require context in order to have meaning. A completely solitary individual is meaningless because they truly affect nothing. But honestly I think it’s impossible for a human to be completely alone. We are born into Humanity; we are born into the machine. This is why no human life is ever meaningless. It never has the opportunity to be.

I guess this all sounds very anthropocentric. I speak as if humanity is the only thing that matters. But everything is made of atoms, and you could just as easily be a tree as you are a human, and so at the core both are the same. But humans have a different purpose than trees. I can’t venture to guess what that purpose might be, I can only believe that it is incredible and it is possible. As one of the characters in Thornton Wilder’s play The Skin of Our Teeth says “I will never doubt that this world has a work to do, and will do it.”

This is all very flowery isn’t it? Sounds like a pompous, over fortunate, female expounding on the ways of the world, making them fit inside her bubble. Far too hopeful to be true. But I refuse to believe that infinity is dead. I will not believe that we killed it. Because you can’t kill infinity, it is everything. I guess when you boil it down this is just an overly complicated way of relaying an incredibly simple idea. More and more it seems as if the world is falling to pieces, and more and more it seems as if there is nothing we can do about it. But we are everything and we are powerful. We are more than capable of saving ourselves. We are more than capable of living forever.