Introduction to GUP #53 - Infinity


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Where do we begin, when we talk about infinity? Where do we end?

Or, is that looking at it the wrong way entirely, because we’ve already been doing it, and will always continue, forever?

As individual humans, we are bound by the constraints of our biology. We do not experience the infinite first-hand, so we conceive of it as an idea. We understand the notion of limitlessness because we experience limits, and then spend our lives in pursuit of trespassing the boundaries that confine us in this reality.

The Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle described life as “a little gleam of Time between two Eternities”. And what is a photograph, but a little gleam of time that we look back upon?

We do not see the infinite, we do not hear or taste or touch or smell it. Yet even without sensing it, we intuit its existence through signs of it all around us, in circles, in maths, in thought, in emotion, in the blacks of a universe defined by its impossible distances. We follow these traces, and meanwhile make our own marks, so that others may follow and better understand what boundaries are yet to be broken. We bring back photos and say, “Look, look”.

Ionesco asked, “Why was I born, if it wasn’t forever?” while Kafka asserted, “The meaning of life is that it stops.” Either way, our existence is interwoven with an awareness of its limits.

Where do we begin, when we talk about infinity? Where do we end?

Katherine Oktober Matthews, Chief Editor


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