Infinity and beyond…

Yet, if one could ignore space and time and be everywhere and every-when at once it would, theoretically at least, be possible to count them. Even taking all future snowfalls for the projected lifetime of our planet into consideration, it would be a finite number. There was, once upon a time, a very first snowflake to fall. There will be a last. There would come a point where there were no more snowflakes to count.

Mind boggling as the concept is, the magnitude of that number is probably as close to the idea of infinity as our normal human thoughts can grasp. Yet it is so far short of an infinite number! Scientists calculate that there could be as many as four and a half billion planets similar to earth in the Milky Way galaxy. Each one of those with its own possibility of snowflakes.  And it is thought that there are hundreds of billions of other galaxies in the universe. Yet are we sure that there is only one universe? Quantum physicists don’t seem to think so…

Suddenly our infinity of snowflakes seems a little puny compared to the possibilities that exist in this wider reality we but dimly perceive.

We in the UK may consider we get a lot of snow. On the whole, it isn’t a vast amount. A couple of inches can be considered ‘a lot’ in southern counties. The north gets more as a rule. We do have the occasional bad winter, and higher ground is harder hit. But I’ve been to places in Europe where snow meant that roads were cut through it with fifteen foot banks of the stuff on either side. Yet a friend in Malta, not so very far away, has never seen a snowfall.

It is all relative.

We think in terms of personal experience, taking into account, perhaps, what we know from the experience of others. While we are aware of these other realities… such as snowless countries or the ones that get twenty times the volume we do… we behave almost as though we don’t truly believe it. We look out of the window and see a foot of snow as either a wonderland or the end of the world… depending on whether we are going out to play or have to brave the roads. We react to what is in front of our eyes, not what the other possibilities may be. Our survival mechanisms are designed that way perhaps, taking in and processing what needs to be dealt with in the waking world of the moment.

Yet we are also designed in such a way that we can at least conceive of those greater realities. Curiosity, imagination, thoughts, hopes and dreams… through these we touch a different reality every day that has its own inner life for us. These hidden realms may occasionally be populated by apparent impossibilities and within them we may be able to transcend the limitations of physics and experience. We may question the accuracy of the reflected world within this sphere, but we do not doubt the reality of mind and imagination. Through it we access concepts and abstractions that surpass the limiting bounds of physical existence. We create and innovate and can comprehend the mind-boggling at a level and in ways we cannot in ‘real life’.

We cannot count every snowflake ever to fall, but imagination gives us an inner feeling for the infinite. It is so far outside the bounds of direct experience that we may never truly understand it. Maybe we do not need to. But we are able to get a personal picture that represents it for us, whether we look at the ocean from the point of view of a single drop, or see ourselves a pinprick in the vast sea of interstellar space. The mind allows us to form an image, a representation that allows us to ‘know’ at a very intimate level. After all, we live within the matrix of infinity and are intimately woven with it.

For many, the idea of the infinite is inextricably linked with that of divinity. Here too imagination allows us to form a personal image with its attendant emotions, regardless of the tradition in which we were raised or the path we have chosen. The image we have will be unique, like a snowflake,  whether we have chosen to view it with faith, belief or dismissal. Divinity is as impossible to grasp in Its entirety as the idea of the infinite within the mind of the everyday world. Maybe we do not need to. If we accept Its existence in any form, then here too we live within It.

A single snowflake is made by hundreds of individual ice crystals coming together and there are so many different ways in which they can arrange themselves that it is said that no two are alike. Statistically, who knows whether or not it is true? From the billions that have fallen or are yet to fall we have examined, perhaps, a few thousand. It doesn’t really matter. Their delicate beauty is transient and can be destroyed by a breath, transformed back into the element from which it came, not lost, but returning to earth to begin the cycle again.

I wonder sometimes if our thoughts and dreams are not the same, fragile and ephemeral as they are, easily damaged or dissolved by the wrong touch. Perhaps they are not lost altogether but return to their component parts, waiting for us to bring them together again in a design more beautiful than the last.

Yes, I know I have a weirdly wired mind, my sons tell me so frequently….

51 thoughts on “Infinity and beyond…

  1. I love that word every-when. If we can have everywhere why shouldn’t we have everywhen. Strange that water, from which the infinite variety of snow flakes come, is absolutely finite. Our minds must have infinite possibilities of thought to even grasp the concept of infinity – which led me to wonder do whales and dolphins have all these inner thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would not be at all surprised. I think we would make a huge mistake to believe we are the only creatures capable of abstract thinking. Just because we cannot …yet… measure and quantify the limits or reach of another species does not mean we fully understand them.

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  2. I like the way your mind works Sue – always intriguing, accessible (I think) and mostly inspirational. Growing up on the Canadian prairies I experienced many adventures (both exciting and sometimes terrifying) during the winter in snowy times. I’ve always loved watching snowflakes fall. Thanks, Sue.

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  3. Fascinating stuff and thought processes Sue. I find it amazing to think no two snowflakes have ever been alike, but then how are we to know that one forty million flakes ago was not the same design as one that fell today. Then again, it would determine where it fell, and how many saw it to study………. etc etc. It goes on forever. Everything is unique, just as we are.

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  4. Sue, I treasure the eccentric and eclectic thoughts, deeds, people and things, so you be as “weirdly wired” as you want. It is funny my kids’ friends make assumptions about how I will be based on my age and countenance. Invariably, they are stunned when I utter things that are in synch with what they believe in some respects. So, I will hang with your thought process and see where it leads.

    Enjoy the snow, just don’t count the flakes. Keith

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      1. Sue, so true. My daughter has a good friend whose parents think climate change is a hoax among other things. So, when we were celebrating my daughter’s Senior project presentation, her friend sat next to my daughter across from. When she heard me talking about addressing climate change, she goes “Dude!” in support of the need to act. It was so funny, she said “Dude” a half a dozen times that dinner conversation. Keith

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  5. Not weirdly wired at all. ❄ A wonderful perspective and precisely why, as you said, it doesn’t matter our origins, but certainly does matter if we go out and look at the snow.

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  6. Reblogged this on Chel Owens and commented:
    “We react to what is in front of our eyes, not what the other possibilities may be. Our survival mechanisms are designed that way perhaps, taking in and processing what needs to be dealt with in the waking world of the moment.

    Yet we are also designed in such a way that we can at least conceive of those greater realities. Curiosity, imagination, thoughts, hopes and dreams… through these we touch a different reality every day that has its own inner life for us…”

    Just a snippet from the wonderful perspective of Sue Vincent.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your mind may be weirdly wired but it provides us with some wonderful stuff to ponder. I HAVE wondered about snowflakes and especially about how someone could say definitively that no two are alike. Did they examine a million of them? Two million? Or just estimated how many ways those crystals could combine? Kind of like thoughts.

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    1. I know… you would never be able to make that kind of statement and be absolutely certain of your ground. And yet, we do… Which also makes me wonder how much else we are missing…

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  8. I saw something recently that said it is perfectly possible to have identical snowflakes, but just … one in a million or so. It’s a bit like DNA. It’s supposed to be unique… the chance of anyone having the same DNA as you (and not be closely related) is something like 250 million to 1. But there are nearly 8 billion people on this planet, so that suggests at least 32 matches if you use the ‘thousand million’ definition of billion…

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  9. Sue, so true. My daughter has a good friend whose parents think climate change is a hoax among other things. So, when we were celebrating my daughter’s Senior project presentation, her friend sat next to my daughter across from. When she heard me talking about addressing climate change, she goes “Dude!” in support of the need to act. It was so funny, she said “Dude” a half a dozen times that dinner conversation. Keith

    Like

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