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  • Writer's picturePiotr

Infinity

Updated: Aug 29, 2023


Infinity! Just imagine! What if this text had no discernible beginning and no end? Imagine scrolling up forever and then imagine scrolling down for the same amount of time.

Yes, it is strange and unimaginable. We think about it until our brains explode with severe case of mental diarrhea. We can conceptualize infinity as an idea of course because, hey, just imagine it! There it is! Infinity! Cool! Forever into the past and forever into the future. No big whoop! Then, when we try to visualize the practical side of it, it becomes too much to handle. Forever? HOW! We can't even reject the idea of infinity because once it was thought of we can't just un-think it. The idea of lack of infinity is just even more illogical then the infinity itself! Our universe is believed to have had a trigger point at about 13.7 billion years ago. I’ve never been able to reconcile the method of measuring the time it took for our space to form starting with an infinitesimal singularity into a dense hot mess that kept on expanding ever since. Did it really take that amount of time? Were these Earth years? Of which calendar? Were the leap years also included? How can we measure a timeline in Earth years when for most of it our Earth didn’t even exist yet? Wasn’t the early time-space shrunk and distorted before it stretched to the size it is at today and what about relativity according to which we can't really tell how much time really passed in relation to speed, distance and point of view of the observer? The inability to wrap our minds around the idea of infinity may lie in the way our finite and imperfect brains are wired. We come up with hacks and shortcuts. One of them is imagining the cyclic nature of reality. Nietzsche proposed that our reality recurs in loops. This purely philosophical thought experiment now has some following among some theoretical physicists. It’s quite a soothing proposition because it ties both ends of infinity together. Likening the idea of infinity to a circle or even a sphere seems reasonable and most bearable to our feeble minds but in the long run even the idea of the somewhat infinite surface of a sphere sends chills down our spine. Besides: what’s inside of this imagined sphere and what’s outside of it? Another cognitive safeguard preventing us from understanding infinity is that we can’t imagine any occurrence unless we imagine it against some sort of a “background” or a “stage”. Any idea we imagine or conceptualize always seems to be functioning against some sort of framework. When we place an object on a table top, we must also acknowledge that the table is standing on a floor and that the floor is part of a building and that the building stands on the Earth’s surface and that the earth orbits the sun and that the sun is part of a galaxy and so on until we hit the wall of infinity and our “background mentality” falls to pieces. Recent theories that surfaced after the Web Space Telescope’s new glimpse into the past of our universe suggest that the big bang we knew as the beginning of everything may have been just one of the infinite number of fluctuations that brought infinite number of universes before ours and will bring infinite number of them after our universe expands and cools. There even exists a hypothesis that it is occurring continuously across infinite number of universes. (Side note: since the infinity transcends the concept of numbers, the phrase “infinite number” should be seen as a misnomer in my view). To imagine that, our brain automatically creates a stage for this conceptualization. It’s almost like having a blank canvas or a piece of paper to write it all down on but the problem with canvases and pieces of paper is that they are finite and fitting the idea of infinity within their finite constraints causes a serious cognitive dissonance. It seems like the only solution to the “background mentality” is to try to abandon the background entirely but I’m not certain our human brain is capable of such a feat. Because the infinity transcends the idea of linear time and that of numbers, it doesn’t fit within any framework that could conceptualize it while frameworks, canvasses, backgrounds, stages and pieces of paper are the only systems our minds are capable of working with.

The infinite timeline means that there is an "infinite number" of possibilities to occur within the infinite space and time of the cosmic reality including one in which we are perfectly able to grasp the idea of infinity. In the infinite timeline it is possible for all of us to recur infinitely, to recur as unicorns or in any other possible or impossible iteration. It also means that if everything can occur within an infinite timeline in an infinite space, could it also mean that the infinity of emptiness in which nothing can ever occur is also one of the possibilities? An inescapable tautology! The idea of a timeline can be only possible within a framework that must be chronological. A week, a year, a period in history, a period of time between "our" big bang and now. But in the face of infinity all chronologies crumble. Which period of infinity are we existing in? Exactly! Since there are no limits to infinity, doesn't it mean we will be coming in and out of existence for an infinite number of times? Does it also mean that we might as well have never existed? I’m afraid I have to stop here and take a walk. Here ends the infinity.

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