Reflecting on the elusiveness of infinity. (pun intended)

– Written 27th December 2009


I was with some friends one day and we walked into one of those lifts that have mirrors on each interior wall. One of my friends said she didn’t like those lifts with mirrors on all the interior walls, for whatever reason. There are probably a number of possible reasons; perhaps nausea, disorientation, maybe an incident where, in such a lift, she was unable to hide mushroom soup that she miraculously managed to spill on her own back. I digress! I digress. The reason is unimportant. (not that I consider the friend to be clumsy at all). Yes, the reason is relatively unimportant. The point is she didn’t like the lifts. She didn’t like them…

…well that’s not really that important either. What’s important is that I replied “How can you not like them?! It’s like looking directly into infinity itself!”

At which point I realised something. Looking at two opposing mirrors is just like looking directly into infinity itself! That is, when you put two mirrors face to face, exactly parallel, you should theoretically create an infinite number of reflections of reflections of reflections.

But there’s a problem. A problem we’ve all known since childhood, and that is that no matter how hard we try, no matter what kind of elaborate positions we manoeuvre our bodies into, we can never see straight down the line of reflection inside reflection. We can never actually see the infinity that is sitting right there. Our head is always in the way.

A moment ago I realised that a lot of people may not find this even remotely resembling anything that you might call “interesting”. But I find it fascinating. It’s so fascinating because in this finite universe we have so much trouble understanding the idea of infinity; and then in the one place where we might actually be able to view it with our own eyes, our perception of it is blocked by the very opaqueness of these eyes, and the physicality and solidity of the mind that is trying to understand it. In our absence, the infinity sits there waiting, but once we try to look at it, we interrupt it – we get in the way of all those photons and destroy it. It’s as if we send it running away. Like pigeons!

In other words, not only can we not get our heads around infinity in all our ponderings of it, but it just so happens that we can’t get our heads around it. Our heads!


And tragic.

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