The universe. It is large.
As far as my conception of it goes, it is infinite. It is infinite in size, in complexity, and in depth. Fractals. Repeating patterns in every direction, each line stretching to infinity. And ideas. Those are infinite too. There are an infinite number of ideas we can explore, and each individual idea can be followed to an infinite depth. I could spend a lifetime studying a single idea, and would still have barely scratched the surface. And, as part of this grand creation, we ourselves have creative capacity. Every human being adds an infinity of new possibilities to the infinity of infinities that already existed.
In short, there truly is more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done.
At times, the realization of the infinity of creation and possibility brings me exquisite joy. I delight in my experience of the universe. I have seen such beautiful sunsets, forests, and flowers. I have smelled wonderful smells, familiar and exotic. I have eaten tasty food. I have listened to breathtakingly beautiful music. I have so many opportunities to experience the world. To learn, to create, and to produce. I have found ways to share these wonderful experiences with those around me. I have worked hard on projects that have brought me meaning and purpose, and a sense of contribution. I have a family that I love. And I have today, and every day, full of so many wonderful choices – opportunities to continue learning and loving and living and serving. So much joy, when I turn my attention to what I am doing, and what I am able to do.
But. At other times, the infinity of the universe has brought me to a place of deep despair. Creation is infinite, but me? This body? My life? I am finite. I will end. Now, to clarify, I do believe in a creator and an afterlife. But I am referring here to what I currently have the capacity to perceive and understand. And within that context, I have limits. I am limited in physical space. I am limited in what I can perceive, and what I can do. My life is limited, with a distinct beginning and end. And no matter how much I do, accomplish, and experience, it will always be a finite amount. And a finite amount, in relationship to infinity, is always, always infinitely small. I can do a great many things. I have an infinite number of choices. But no matter how many things I do, there are an infinite number of things I will never do. I can spend my entire life learning, and it will never change the fact that there is an infinity more to learn. When I focus my attention on the things I don’t do, the things I can’t do, and all the beautiful, wonderful, creative and joyful things I miss, I sometimes fall into a pool of despair and loss that seems to have infinite depth.
I have learned, over time, to live my life joyfully regardless. I choose to participate in and appreciate the delightful opportunities each day offers. And I accept that there is simultaneously an infinity of things that I am not doing. I strive to celebrate the achievements and experiences of others, even when they are things I do not choose, or could never choose because of my life’s limitations. I occasionally slip into the pool of despair, and that’s ok. Grief and despair are a big part of the infinity of human experience, and they have their place.
So I had, more or less, reached a working equilibrium. And then, a pandemic happened. Suddenly, many of the opportunities and experiences that had previously been available to me are gone. Our family circumstances have required that we remain relatively locked down even as our society has begun to open up. Pre-pandemic, we had been able to socialize with many people, now it’s only a handful. We had been able to go to a great many different places. And now it’s only a few. Masks and social distancing are just part of our reality now. That happy little equilibrium I had reached, that balance where I lived my life with joy while accepting the inherent limitations has definitely been shaken up. My attention has been unavoidably drawn to that vast, infinite array of things I cannot do.
Pre-pandemic, my life offered an infinite number of choices. And now, a finite number of those choices are no longer available. But here’s the thing, when you subtract a finite number from infinity, what remains is…infinity. My life seems so different, but in substance, things are as they always were. As before, there are limitations. But as before, there is also an infinite number of opportunities. I can learn. I can create. I can do meaningful work. I can serve my community, and love my family. I am not doing these things in the same way I was before the pandemic. I am doing them in a new way. A different way. I am making choices and experiencing wonderful things that I may have never selected if the circumstances of the pandemic hadn’t shoved me out of my comfort zone. And I am discovering, once again, that no matter what limitations I live with, every day of my life affords an infinity of joy, love and learning. All I have to do is jump in and embrace it.