Let me take you back by two millennia and a few centuries, once there lived a great general who fought his way across the entire known world of that era reaching a river across which stood the greatest empire of that region. He would have wanted to go forward and conquer that region if only his soldiers cooperated. The infinite desire to conquer by this conqueror had to be shelved due to finite constraints. Needless to say, he died an unhappy man, in his early thirties, far far away from his home in circumstances that haven’t yet been explained. By now, I am sure you know who we are talking about; Alexander The great. The man who conquered all the territories of the known world right till the Beas river. What happened after the man’s death is of course known to all. Swiftly his empire was parcelled into smaller pieces. His empire was short-lived, just surviving him by a few years and not infinity.
Why are we talking about Alexander, in the first place? Alexander to me represented the most tangible and physical expression of ‘Glory’ and ‘Ambition’ (which is just another word for burning desire). A lot has been said about desire across the ages, a human preoccupation, if I may say so. Controlling desire has been extolled as a virtue by many of the religious systems that exist in our world.
The control of desire is considered to be the path to contentment and happiness. Happiness, eudaimonia, ananda however you may term it, has been another preoccupation to the human being. What it actually is, of course, is a subject of debate; as are the methods to achieve it. The materialistically dominant society that we inhabit today, seeks pleasure as a means to achieve happiness. This for the most part relies on giving into our dreams, multiplying our options, which also aids our economy where consumption by the customer forms a very important bedrock of our economies. Higher the consumption, higher the production, and then incomes rise, which again go into more consumption and more production. This, needless to say, puts us into a vicious cycle of infinite demand and finite supply (due to finite resources). Our GDPs grow, probably we are more well provided on a materialistic plane than ever. Most of us have our needs met, relatively more secure than the ages that preceded us. But we are not happy. Just to provide a case in point, ABC News reports that the US has seen a 400% increase in the intake of antidepressant drugs since 1994. Midlife crises have become commonplace, there is a sense of purposelessness that prevails. All of us are on what I call a conqueror’s spree, more degrees, more disposable money, we want more and when we get what we want, we set our sights even higher, we want even more and more and more always. We keep running all the time, one desire gets fulfilled, other crops up. Many seem to blame the society we live in, but that is in my view just the surface and the manifestation of the major issue.
The Human body by its nature is perishable. It is bound by the Space-time coordinates in the world we inhabit. It comes into existence at a finite point in time and perishes at another finite point in time. Essentially it is a finite element in this world, and it goes without saying that the world itself is finite. Let’s now venture into the realms beyond the finite. My dear reader, the only way we finite time-bound beings can move to that realm is through mathematics. I would like to first go about trying to evolve a definition for infinity as I see it. To this end, let’s use the easiest technique we know, induction. Consider 1 as a symbol of unity or a single quantity. We can link to any finite entity for the time being. Now by using the logic of Peano’s axioms, 1 added to 1 gives us a double entity, let’s represent it by 2. Unity added further to 2 generates trinity, let’s say 3. Now one can imagine the highest number one can. Let me say 10 to the power 100000. Then by this logic, there will exist a number 10 to the power 100000 + 1 that can be denoted by ϵ. There will also exist a ϵ+1 and an ϵ+1+1. This means the set of numbers is endless, hence infinity. Now for our purposes, we shall define something as infinite as a finite set that always has room for at least one other entity, however large the set might get.
Now that we have evolved a definition of infinity, we can go about drawing parallels that will allow us to address our main concerns. Let us look at the timeline of human accomplishments, all of it has emerged from inside, there might have been inspirations from outside, but often it was just a spark for something that existed outside the finite bounds of ‘what was known to be possible’. That is the ideas, thoughts, and creativity which resulted in inventions that merged into the finite domain of the known emerged from inside. Now, by the logic of induction, there exists at least one other creative thought or idea that springs within the human. Which by our definition stands at infinity. If I may draw your attention to our previously established fact, the human body (which includes our brain) is finite. By the very definition of infinity, a finite set of functions cannot result in infinity. Within the human being, there is a manifest infinity. I shall call it ‘mind’, as it is a more easily recognizable term, you may call it, k#$@drff or anything that catches your fancy. Here we come to a paradox, the human condition is a paradox, we have a finite entity housing the infinite.
The paradox is not the problem, denial, and ignorance of this paradox, I would submit to your consideration, is the root of the problem. Mind by virtue of its nature, which is infinity deals in the realm of the abstract where the expression of infinity is commonplace. However one must understand that the mind works from a finite entity, the ignorance of the innate infinite makes us confuse the abstract with the non-abstract. When we deny this, the denial pushes this latent knowledge of infinity into our subconscious. This results in the infinity manifesting itself as desires presented in the form of finite entities, albeit an infinite series of them one after the other. The mind asserts its infinite nature by creating a set of endless desires rooted in the physical world. The human body which is the sole instrument at our disposal, by its nature of being finite and hence constrained often falls short. The denial, ignorance, and helplessness create a concoction of deep unhappiness.
Now that we have uncovered this knowledge does it create happiness? I would assert that it does not. Knowing is just the first step to the path of being. I would submit that oftentimes the knowledge of the mind as infinite exists within our consciousness. Either by contemplation or by tragic consequences one might reach the stage of knowing. Many push this knowledge into the subconscious and experience the consequences; some of us retain it in consciousness, but often fail to use the knowledge to our advantage, but there is a third class of people who retain it in their consciousness and limit their desires. They control the uncontrollable, they control the infinity. That this is possible is itself a product of the infinite entity, mind.
We have established, all that we wanted to, the problem, the cause, and the consequences. It is time that we push on to more uncertain terrain. Then, what may be the solution to this? I can only suggest what lies in my finite set, and there might be many more that our infinite minds can reveal to us. I would like to submit that a plausible solution would be a systematic ‘decoupling’ of the abstractions of the mind and the projections on the supposed ‘reality’ we exist in. What does this mean, anyway? I will provide you, my dear reader, with an example I believe, will be able to explain this concept to some extent.
Mathematics, philosophy, spirituality, and exploration of science can be taken as examples of fields where infinity can be commonplace. There are no constraints in the realms of pure mathematics to the pursuits of the mind. The infinite can be compensated only with the infinite. It is akin to setting the genie forever on straightening the dog’s tail, whereas summoning a part of its strength and resolve for application into the finite realm.
While a part of infinity is of course infinity, one requires an infinite instrument to move beyond the horizons of finite. Diverting it again to the pursuit of infinity where it’s possible, post that, is the key. Choose an area where infinite is possible and divert the infinite energies into the pursuit of infinity. This will decrease our desires in the finite world as the mind can’t create an infinite set of desires in the physical realm as it is occupied in the realm of abstraction and infinite, and the knowledge of infinity ensures that you don’t ever expect to conquer it. Where there is less desire and less expectation there is bound to be more contentment. Happiness is a byproduct of contentment, to be content is also to be happy. The lesser the desire and lesser the expectations, the lower the threshold for the fulfillment, which in other words is easier the path to the contentment of which happiness is a byproduct.
We, humans, are unique because we have a finite instrument and an infinite instructor. That infinity lies within oneself is in itself, in my view, an empowering thought. All of us house infinity within us, which we have to harness in a manner that doesn’t get affected by the constraints of finiteness. All human endeavors have been to manage this paradox consciously or unconsciously. All of us are conquerors. Alexander’s conquering spree might finally have to do with his ambition which is just an attempted physical manifestation of infinity, the mind. As humans, our purpose and our urge are the journeys towards infinity. We cannot avoid this journey, but we can use our infinite instrument to shift the journey to realms of infinite where it is possible to find happiness and not waste our infinity on the realm of finite resulting in unhappiness.
Finally, whatever I have written above is just one opinion. I just hope that the perspective that I gained in my journey towards infinity, will be of some help to you in your journey.
Towards Infinity, the only purpose there is.
Image credits: Pxsphere