Measuring the Infinite

The infinite is the line of demarcation in every important bit of what separates man from machine and the rest of creation. In Mormonism it is the barrier that divides the mortal from the premortal and postmortal, it is the desert between God and His past, and for man, it is not a gulf of nonexistence, but an endless sea of personhood. The infinite is what lies before us, and after us. The infinite is inside us. The infinite *is* us. It is what lies beyond the firmament.

The Unwashed banter about the infinite as though they understand the darkness below the thermocline over the Marianas Trench. But they don’t want to dip their toes in that water. It’s cold. And you can’t see the bottom. Because there isn’t one.

Poets and Prophets run from the infinite, they hedge it up, lighting little flares of truth to keep it at bay. But they can’t do it for long. Death takes them and forces them through that thin crack between worlds they barely glimpsed in their 5 minute flashes of inspiration. Get ready, you’re in the same rushing time-stream. But don’t worry. You’ve been there, done that. Have faith. It *is* going to work out. The best really is yet to come.


  1. Thanks for this — there’s some real food for thought here. I liked your last paragraph. It reminded me of something Norbert recently wrote here along the lines that we Mormons too often end up ignoring the concept of the mysteries of God “as if Paul wouldn’t have seen through the glass darkly if he had had a copy of Gospel Principles in his hand.”

    You remind us that glimpses of infinity and the mysteries of God are at best flashes that illuminate only the rough contours of our path forward, and even then only briefly.

  2. Great fun.

  3. If you had had a hotel with an infinite number of rooms with no vacancy, and a bus with an infinite number of high school marching bands showed up needing rooms, could you accomodate them? Infinite amount of times? What about if every number between 0 and 1 came?

  4. No vacancy means no vacancy. Drive on. And you numbers? Look for Hotel Uncountable. It’s down the road from Cantor’s Asylum.

  5. Thanks WVS. Last night a close friend who has been ill for a long time told me she likely has a week or less to live. Your thoughts help me put my grief into perspective.

  6. I think somethings are infinite, but others can be numbered.
    I don’t have an infinite number of cars_ I have one. I don’t think I am infinite_ I am one.

  7. Makes me think of this:

    ” Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God.”

  8. Thomas Parkin says:

    I was just thinking yesterday: there is a precise number of Twinkies that I’ve eaten in my life. Not one Twinkie more or one Twinkie less. I really have no idea what that number might be. We ate quite a lot of Twinkies when I was a kid, but it wasn’t anything like an everyday occurrence. I imagine the number is actually well south of 300, much less than Infinite Twinkie. I was also thinking that I am probably right at half way through my life, but that the number of Twinkies I will eat going forward is much less than half the total number of Twinkies I’ll eat in my life. I doubt I’ll eat another ten, twelve Twinkies. There is an exact number that I will yet eat, but that is not set in stone. I imagine it is no more than five or six.

    Some people think that in an infinite amount of time all possibilities will eventually find an expression. But I don’t believe this. For instance, it is possible that if you were flipping a coin repeatedly forever the coin would eventually come up heads a million times in a row. But I don’t believe this would ever happen. I think the most you would ever get, in all eternity, would be more like a couple thousand times in a row, if that. Also, it is strange to me but even though at each flip it is possible that the result will be heads, it is impossible for it to always be heads. You might flip heads for many many years, but eventually it will come up tails. So all things are not possible.

    Some people think that to ‘walk in a newness of life’ simply means having a moral and spiritual re-birth. But it actually describes a condition of perfect righteousness. For the holy, life never becomes old. They never get tired of going through it. Everything remains perpetually new: sensation, thought, emotion, feeling the wind, the sand, making love, eating enchiladas; it is always as if for the first time. This is what it means to be a God. ~

  9. Thomas Parkin says:

    P.S. Katie adds that perhaps there is an allotted number of Twinkies for me to eat, and that when I’ve eaten that exact number I’ll die. Maybe if I stop eating Twinkies, I’ll live forever.

  10. Thomas Parkin says:

    But without Twinkies, can one be said to be truly living???

  11. its a series of tubes says:

    An infinite number of mathemeticians walk into a bar. The first one orders a mild barley drink. The second orders half a mild barley drink. The third, a quarter of a mild barley drink. The bartender says “You’re all idiots”, and pours two drinks.

  12. Best read (including comments)I’ve had in a while. Math humor! Seriously funny.

  13. john f., that really was a classic statement; one which I plan on poaching.

    Great stuff, WVS.

  14. This life is the finitude which surrounds infinity.

  15. Mystifying, cosmic, poetic awesomeness, thank yaw! Self-awareness of the concept of the infinite–that man can conceive, experience, and arrive at thinking about the borders of what is known and understood–has always made me feel that there is something omnipresent, omnipotent, and larger than I. Great OP.

  16. Steve Evans says:

    This truly is a poach-rich thread and post. Thanks for cosmic wonderness, WVS.

  17. “I doubt I’ll eat another ten, twelve Twinkies. There is an exact number that I will yet eat, but that is not set in stone. I imagine it is no more than five or six.”

    You have the infinite God-given power to make it zero, Thomas. Use that infinite power and live.

  18. Thomas, in his infinite wisdom, never fails to crack me up.

  19. Todd H
    Grief is like the ocean. Deep, dark, and bigger than all of us. But it’s something that occurs quite frquently in mortality and can be dealth with effectively. I hope that you can find a good person to talk to about yours.

  20. This is the best article I’ve ever read. Well at least since my last ever.

  21. Great stuff!

    What is the cardinality of infinite love do you suppose?

  22. SteveP,

    42. :)

  23. John f. Poaching as well. Todd H, best wishes. Thanks all.

  24. hell is being thomas’ coin flipping counter guy

  25. Nah. That’s the accounting department. Oh….

  26. I throw this out once in awhile to see if I can find another one to add to my support group of two. Yeah, by talking about this, I have found one other that can do what I can do.

    I can see forever, eternity or whatever one may wish to call it. It is the most horrendously crushing experience possible.

    If you have never seen it, pray that it stays that way.

  27. WVS, you consistently cause me to Google things.

  28. Parodox to Ponder #1 – The infinite atonement means that the infinite distance in mortality between all of us and God effectively shrinks the relative positional distance due to merits/status/class vis a vis our fellow man and woman to zero.
    Pondering on and accepting the reality of this paradox does increase the frequency of my own personal, poetic 5 seconds of inspiration. Being neither poet nor prophet nor Dante, I don’t get the 5 minute flash. But in that 5 seconds, the infinite gap between me and my fellow man seems to shrink to zero.
    Paradox to Ponder #2 – Through the Looking Glass. Christ as mortal might have pondered and experienced #1 as we do. Put what would it mean for Christ as a God, with one foot in the infinite to experience and/or create the atonement. On the outside I can observe the common measured three hour rush of time together with him, but on the inside, an infinite being was actually embarked on an infinite journey. Perhaps part of him, from my vantage point in mortality has never come back. In fact, it seems perhaps, that as long as I am “in the finiteness of mortality” with all of its clean boundaries, part of Christ is still on his infinite journey of an atonement that never ends to rescue the sinner who has chosen tails the first million times that heads came up a million in a row. So now the fun and joy and pondering of infinite HS bands and vacancies takes on an element of sacredness and mystery. Somehow my reliance on the atonement means in some intuitive flash buried to my rational mind, I comprehend that to fit an infinite number of “homeless” HS bands into a world that seems to have no vacancies for failures is in fact the simplest and clearest aspect of reality.

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