To fully know someone
May 26, 2002 - by Jack Seay homeDo you know my every thought, inner feeling and turmoil, every sensation of my body and environment? Not just this continuum of infinite moments comprising this second, but every second of my life. I do not conform my every thought to convention and culture, to fleeting fad and fashion. My beliefs are not simple, even to myself. I have attempted to conceptualize what it would take to write my life on paper, but life is more than words can communicate, it is not condensable; it cannot be summed without losing accuracy or without the selection of great condensation. And life goes on changing constantly even after the ink is long dry. The whole is so much more infinite than the sum of the infinite number of parts, the infinitely continuously divisible moments, the millions of constantly changing tiny fragments of sensation, feeling, and thought merged into conscious being. Who can even define it in thought, much less words, even these words? And if they could, the definition would be but an inaccurate selection, an abstraction far removed from the reality, a frozen slice of time, fictionalized from a "life". Who can know a life truly, any life - but an infinite life?
Even science has confounded itself, in defining the infinite parts, infinitesimal, changing in the continuum of time, a life, each indefinably greater than a universe filled with the abstractions of words encoded in subatomic bits, each life loving, touching, abstracting in their own minds the floods of memories, feelings, sensations modified by thoughts and memories of past moments and groups of moments, interacting with other people, hugging, talking, eyes touching. Each life, each person not truly knowable in essence but nevertheless experienced in our own abstracted from fragments of reality way. Those who try to conceptualize life as merely reason or empirical experience are eliminating whole infinities of the reality of the whole, because by excluding the other, whether reason or experience, a vast part of reality has been summarily executed. By including both, a reality infinitely more infinite than any mere human can experience even a moment of, even if the whole of life were expended trying to consume and sum that moment, has been embraced; a God-like task if ever there was one. And if it be postulated that the sum is greater than the parts, and how can it not be, then the job is ended before it can begin. Were I to fill the oceans with my prose and poetry, and that of all others who create such, it could not but give a glimmer of that thing we call life; a word of four letters itself inadequate to such a task as trying to encompass the unencompassable.
Perhaps a bit of mathematics would help here. Mathematical space extends in all directions infinitely. A point in that space has no size. You can zoom in on it forever and never see it, only point to it's location. Each life is like a point in space, existing in this physical Universe for but a point in time. And yet each life contains in itself an infinite space of details, infinite segments of time and interactions with other lives and the external environment. Of course, mathematics describes universes of imaginary universes, most waiting yet to be discovered or created. None of which describes the real Universe, which can only describe itself, for a moment, continuously changing. But are we capable of receiving such a description? I am not demeaning either science or math here, but merely pointing out our need for humility in view of the limitations of the smallness of our capacity for knowledge. We need science to show us at least a fraction of what exists, and mathematics to give us mental models, metaphors for reality. But we must not overreach to unwarranted conclusions that we cannot support.
The study of war, disease, accidents, and human cruelty may seem to cheapen life to total meaningless. But these things strike us as so horrible precisely because of what they destroy. The mind is a beautiful thing to waste. Yet if life truly ends forever at death, then it is in fact meaningless, as all history is only a point in infinite time. And when, on the timeline of eternal time, past history, then what could be made of that futile and tragic, but now meaningless, point that was, but is no more? This has all been said before in the book of Ecclesiastes. Some say "enjoy the present". But it is continuously consuming the future and turning it into past. Can anyone even comprehend what is the present moment? An indefinably small point in continuously changing time, a knife point of no size stroking continuously along the line of time, incomprehensibly converting the future, (a reality not yet existing), into the past, (unchanging reminder of what once was the present). This present, of no size and no duration, once past, retrievable only by reminder of memory or physical artifact; many consider to be the only reality.
Definitions:Continuum - On a line, there are infinitely many points on the segment between 2 numbers (0 and 1, for instance). Between any two of these points, no matter how close, are infinitely many more points. And between any of these are infinitely many more points, and so on forever. It is not possible to even identify the "next" point on the line, because no matter how closely you choose a point, there are still infinitely many more points in between. Time, although a continuum, moves at a relentless, constant pace. If your segment of time measurement is cut in half, each new segment passes twice as fast as the previous measuring unit of time. It isn't possible to say you will travel along a line from each point to the next. You can only jump from point A to point B in a given amount of time, passing over at any given segment of the line an infinite number of points. Time is a continuum, as are planes and space. Between any two moments (fractions of a second) are an infinity of moments of time. Between any two parallel lines or planes are an infinite number of lines or planes. Any line segment contains infinitely many segments, because each segment can be divided again forever. Any square or box can be subdivided forever. Any square can contain infinitely many overlapping and embedded squares. To get anywhere in time or on a line, plane, or space requires dispensing with the whole idea of traveling to the next point.
Mathematical space - Given any point in space, an infinite number of lines on a plane intersect the point. Make that point the center of a sphere. There are an infinite number of points on that sphere, no matter how small it is. A single line passes through each of these surface points and the center point. Each of these lines intersect an infinite number of planes. Each point of all those planes can then become the center of an infinite number of spheres. Between any two spheres sharing the same center point (no matter how close the spheres), there are an infinite number of spheres. Every point in space is the center of an infinite number of spheres. There is no closest sphere or furthest sphere. If you try to designate a closest sphere, it contains an infinite number of spheres within it. If you try to designate a furthermost sphere, there are an infinite number of spheres containing it. There are an infinite number of 2 and 3 dimensional shapes, each containing an infinite number of points. Every shape other than a single point has an infinite number of points. Every point in space can be designated as any of the infinite points in a shape, and for all of the infinite shapes, each in infinite sizes, rotated in an infinite number of angles of each of the 3 dimensions separately and in all combinations. Add: partially and fully filled shapes, line segments, fractals and other forms of random and calculated shapes (2 and 3D), movement, morphing, and change through time, and infinite dimensions.