Blog Post

Infinite Possibilities in Small Infinities

A Blog Post

No one lives forever, except perhaps in the memory of certain people. Even that no one can guarantee because those who remember also do not live forever. Our lifespan upon earth is limited. Some may live longer and some for a short while, but in the end everyone has to die. Thankfully, most of us do not know when we are going to die. We are saved from that ordeal by Nature. What is most painful and fearsome? It is knowing when exactly you are going to die, or how long you are going to live. For most of us, unless we have numbed our senses, it is unbearable. It happens in fewer cases, when someone is facing a death sentence or suffering from terminal illness. Coping with a situation like that requires immense courage, and coming to terms with death itself. A person whose death is imminent has fewer options to deal with it. Whatever that one can do in such a situation can be only done at the mental or spiritual level, by accepting it, surrendering to it, and becoming indifferent to it. It means one needs a fundamental shift in thinking, attitude and free the mind from the longing to live to acknowledge the inevitability of death.

There is an important scene in the movie, The Fault in our Stars, which touches upon this subject. The movie is about two teenagers who are stuck with cancer. One of them is about to die, and the other knows that at some point she has to leave, although she does not know when it may exactly happen. The hero of the film, Augustus Waters, arranges his own (pre) funeral in a Church in anticipation of his imminent death. He invites only two of his best friends to read their eulogies. One of them is the heroine of the film Hazel Grace Lancaster.

In her eulogy, she uses a math analogy to express her gratitude for an opportunity she has to know him and love him, and in the course of it she touches upon a brilliant concept. A person's lifespan upon earth may be limited, but within that limited lifespan is hidden an infinity. That infinity may be smaller or bigger than other infinities, but each one has an opportunity to experience it and feel grateful about it. Hazel Grace begins her small, prepared speech by saying, "I am not a mathematician, but I do know this. There are infinite numbers between zero and one. There is 0.1. 0.12, 0.112, and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. So our infinity is simply bigger than other infinities. A writer that we used to like taught us that... But Gus I know how thankful I am for our little infinity. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and for that I am eternally grateful."

Her speech reflected the manner in which she came to terms with her limited lifespan and with the imminent death of her boyfriend. She did not feel sorry for the turn of the events, but felt grateful for the memorable moments she spent with him. She looked at life in terms of moments and the infinite possibilities each moment offered. She felt that their infinite was bigger than some other infinites because they were able to live longer than some who died much younger. In that limited number of days, she had an opportunity to experience true love and express it. It was her way of coming to terms with what life might offer, the inevitability of death, and accepting what had become her fate.