Before I start writing about this, I will point out that yes, when someone writes about subject matter like this (other than an astrophysicist) it smacks of a person who is either depressed from a multitude of possibilities, or the person is someone who is distracted easily and enjoys the exercise of wasting time contemplating frivolous things. I imagine what I’m about to write will probably slap you in the face with that feeling. However, trust me when I say I’m writing about this only partially because I am depressed and enjoy wasting time contemplating impossibly frivolous things. I say it’s a frivolous thing for me to contemplate because it is. I’m trying to come to an understanding about something I cannot even begin to perceive in my head, which is like handing a preschooler a book on, oh, let’s say…calculus, having them look at the equations, and telling them to explain what they see. Even that example isn’t good enough to explain what I’m trying to say – it’s like putting a newborn’s head in a paper bag, cutting out one eyehole, having them look through it for a microsecond, and listening as they explain, from that, multi-dimensional theories and the theory of relativity. I don’t know. I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t have any answers, I’m not trying to contemplate the meaning of existence; I know as well as anyone else how pragmatically we have to approach this life because of its meaning and its fleetfootedness. So, without further ado, I digress.
When did you first learn the word ‘infinity’? I don’t remember exactly, but I know I was young. An older kid on my street said something ‘times infinity,’ and I didn’t know what he meant. It went something like, “You’re it times infinity.” You know, kid’s games.
I don’t remember how the following conversation went exactly, but I imagine it went something like, “What does that mean?” “Infinity means forever. Counting forever; nothing beats infinity.”
After that, I had the same experience with ‘infinity’ that I believe most people have. Use it in games to win, always; grow up and, if you’re lucky enough to go to school and be able to take math classes, learn to use it as an “answer.” Parabolas, asymptotes, lines, rays, hyperbolas, limit functions, etc. – these objects, equations, figures; they all, without question or contemplation, extended to infinity in our minds. Infinity was just the place these things went to where we didn’t have to think about them anymore.
Time has passed since high school and my last “higher level” math classes in college (if you count signing up for and not going to Calculus 3 extending your knowledge of mathematics), and infinity has still been something I have decided not to concern myself with. As it has been, and most likely will be until I die, I am concerned with more immediate matters that have a more tangible effect on me now. As in, “contemplating theories about the universe, of which I have no real foundation to do so, somehow does not keep the collection companies from continuing to call. Hmm.”
Only recently have I become enthralled with the idea of infinite matter in the universe, and I can’t avoid it. In my limited mind, I have to admit I can’t see how there can be infinite matter in the universe, because when my mind starts to wander at the possibilities of such a thing, I can easily become overwhelmed.
This is where, for the first time in my life, the meaning of the word ‘infinity’ or ‘infinite’ actually begins to take its grip. In geometry, when a line extends in both directions forever, I say that to myself and believe it, because I trust that this happens without actually envisioning it. When I imagine infinite matter in the universe as a truth, this means there are – literally – infinite possibilities of life, of existence, of combinations of reality that I can never fully wrap my head around.
This means that, if there is infinite matter in the universe, then there is a galaxy far, far away where jedis exist. Where lightsabers exist. Where I am a jedi. Where the death star is blown up. There’s another galaxy where the exact same thing is happening, only a second later. And another galaxy happening two seconds later. And one 5 seconds earlier. The death star is blowing up every second of our lives.
This means that somewhere, there is an actual commander Shepard. There is an actual Master Chief. There is a real Don Draper. And I am all of them. And they are all happening simultaneously, and at every other moment in time.
This means I am – literally – every person I see on the road. Every person I see on TV, in commercials, in movies and shows. There is a different place of existence where each animal on this earth has its own earth, and they are the leaders of its existence. And I am their leader. Or I am not.
There’s a place where dinosaurs and man exist at the same time. There is a place where the Flinstones – the actual cartoon Flinstones – is reality. Not in a two-dimensional way though. I don’t even want to begin trying to contemplate different planes of existence I can’t even fathom. That’d be like covering a newborn baby’s head with a paper bag…
…I digress again.
All these examples are merely examples of things I can wrap my head around. Examples of things that would at least make sense to me, in my field of existence. I can’t watch anything on TV right now, or read anything in a book or magazine, and spend more than thirty seconds between imagining that, if there is infinite matter in the universe, all these things exist in every possible way. Right now (don’t ask me why, I just am) I’m reading The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, detailing the First Age and birth of the earth in his imagined storyline (as if this post could get ANY DORKIER). I can’t read more than two paragraphs without thinking that, yes. Even this, somewhere in the universe, if there is infinite matter: this is happening. In every way, at every time. And I am there.
All this makes it very hard to believe in the possibility of infinite matter in the universe. Take some time to think of all the things that had to happen exactly – exactly – as they did, in order for life to exist on earth. Not only exist, but thrive. The possibility of life existing and thriving on a planet is so impossibly rare, it makes some people actually believe it is not possible anywhere else in the universe. In the entire universe!
Now, imagine that, if there is infinite matter, there are infinite earths. Infinite.
And, despite all of that, despite all the possibilities of existence if, this were to be true, I find myself here. Here – in a miserable amount of debt, with no focus or direction in my life at the moment.
In another galaxy, I am winning The Masters right now.
There is something that that Matt doesn’t have that I have here though.
I have Ashley.
And, honestly, of all the possibilities that would exist given an infinite amount of matter in the universe, and considering how I am living in this place – I wouldn’t trade places with any of them. I couldn’t imagine being happier anywhere else than I am when I am here with her.
Although I suppose I could trade places with the Matt who’s winning The Masters right now AND has Ashley…
…but I digress.