A Gaze Into Infinity
by Geetashree Chatterjee
I was drawn to the idea of infinity in my formative years. The subject which introduced me to the concept was the one which I loathed the most – Mathematics. But it also had a few mind tickling topics which tempted my imagination to no end and I could spend hours pondering over them. One such was the symbol (horizontal eight!) which denoted a number far greater to be counted orally or expressed numerically - the infinite.
I read somewhere that human mind has its own limitations. It tries to probe, analyse, identify, quantify and understand even the most elusive by illustration. But how to measure infinity or bind it within visual limits!!!
My father had solved the puzzle much earlier for me. One day he took me to the terrace and pointed at the sky teeming with innumerable stars. “Look,” he said, “What you see up there is just a piece of the sky. But this is not all. The sky is just a miniscule part of the Universe as we all are. The Universe is much bigger and vaster than you can imagine. It’s infinite…beyond human imagination or perception.” That was the first example of infinity that I got. Night after night I would gaze at the stars and wonder how vast the sky was. Would I ever be able to scale its periphery? The very thought used to give me goose bumps.
I was a careless student given to day dreaming. Hours passed by as I watched the sun rays dance on the young green leaves of the Neem tree whose branches almost touched my window. A soft swish of the wind and how the leaves swayed gleefully! One or two would leave their abode and swirl in space in sheer abundance of joy falling softly on the ground after a while. I wanted to cup the rays in my hands and count the leaves on the branches or those lying listlessly on the ground. But after sometime, I’d abandon the exhausting task and just sit and stare as time ticked by endlessly.
Much later, on the shores of the Bay of Bengal I fruitlessly tried to number the waves crashing on the rocks and failed miserably. After some time losing count I realized I was chasing infinity.
When I was in Middle School, my mother enrolled me for a course in Hindusthani Classical Music in a private institute – a cosy building in the midst of a lush lawn. I liked its ambience and would often stroll into other classes. One day I heard the young painter teaching his pupils, “Look yonder at the wall. What do you see?” It was a plain, blank, white washed wall which held nothing much of interest to me. But his next sentence was an eye opener. “See the various shades of white where the shadows and lights mingle and play.” I looked back once more. The painter could see what my eyes failed to discern - the Creator’s infinite palette.
Guruji’s sonorous voice still echoes in my ears, “Musical sound or Naad is infinite. Human voice has its limitation – Alas! It can only capture seven notes. But behold how these seven notes can be permuted into infinite melody.” And his melodic examples would fill the air.
The mad saint of Dakshineshwar would raise his arms up in the air and yell, Maa! Your grace abounds.” Scorched skin, tangled beard, glazed eyes, frequent uncontrolled laughter followed by equally unrestrained cries of anguish and despair , we often saw the dubious spectacle loitering around the temple premise.
Crushed in the Metro, I look around for familiar faces. I find none. Every day the known is taken over by the unknown, the stale by the new, the regular by the irregular, order by disorder, the sedate by the swift, the expected by the unexpected. Every day, in our mundane routine of survival, we experience God’s handiwork…the endless game of creation and havoc.
Innumerable glimpses of infinity are strewn around us if we choose to explore.
Life itself is a string of infinite possibilities.
Infinite potentials are hidden within us, so say the sages.
Infinity is amidst us and we mortals are part of that infinite whole.
A reassuring, at the same time, awe inspiring thought!