3/18/15 To Infinity and Beyond

I borrowed the title from Buzz Lightyear. Thanks, Buzz.Buzz

I’ve had my eye on infinity for a while, now. I think I might be gaining on it. We’re all actually gaining on it whether we know it or not, really. It’s a morbid thought, or it’s an expansive one, depending on what my frame of mind is at the moment, though one’s frame of mind can be as flighty as the temperament of a socialite whose name is favorably mentioned in the newspaper society columns multiple times one day, and then feels slighted because it is omitted the next, causing an oppressive brooding, resulting in much drama and many phone calls to those whose sympathies may only be in appearance.

Infinity is to supposed to be an ever larger expanse, retreating from us as we reach for it, never being able to get to its boundary, much less beyond it. Infinity is as large as the universe, or universes, as we are told there is no boundary, and universes perhaps exist amid parallel universes. Our limitations of not being able to see something are not reasonable evidence to declare that things do not exist. If we can conceive of something it is evidence that such a thing might exist. Man is not the measure of all things, in spite of Protagoras, or Rousseau’s borrowing from Protagoras, since we must admit of things man is unable to measure. Those things are unaffected by our imprecise measuring tools, and likely as unconcerned as they are unaffected.

I have been inadvertently exploring the other side of infinity: the small side. I didn’t intend to explore this, it just snuck (my spell check is not familiar with s-n-u-c-k…thus, I will expand my spell check’s universe) up on me, I suppose, since dealing with issues that seem smaller than the world at large has forced me to focus on things much nearer much closer, then closer, and closer. The closer you focus, the more you see. The greater the magnification of something small, the more that is revealed, until, finally, you realize there is no stopping point, and you’ve confronted a square-root infinity every bit as large as the multiple-squared infinity that was simply too big to spend time contemplating. Either wonderfully perplexing way, I am smaller than the largest, and still smaller than the smallest.

As my world gets smaller, I discover more of the infinite in it.

My world, is indeed getting smaller. I chose to make it that way, just like I choose softer over louder when it comes to music. Louder makes your audience louder, or drives them away. Softer pulls them in, caressing them, not assaulting their ears. You might get drowned out in the background noise, but those who want to hear you will come closer, and the ones who don’t will not hear you if you scream at them, since their attention is on other things and they will resent your intrusion.

When one puts one’s attention on one thing, one single solitary thing, and focuses on it, and gets lost in an absolute, uncompromisingly compelling lost-ness, lost to time, lost to space, lost to one’s internal dialog, I reckon one has approached infinity as nearly as a mortal man can.

I am compelled to reckoning on this, since there is no real speculation, though there is wonder, and for me, that is the big three: speculation, wonder, and reckoning. The holy trinity of Southern philosophy can be summed up in those three words. Speculation is wondering what our reasonable expectations are. Wonder is speculation of what our reasonable expectations might be. And last, reckoning is the expectations we arrived at by wonder and speculation. Reverse infinity embraces that just as well as an expanding universe.

I have a reverse infinity golf game. I have, on occasion, been able to drive the ball half-way to the pin on a long Par-5 hole. From there, I can successfully drive it half-way to the pin with each and every shot, if I’m lucky, staying on the proper fairway and not producing too much in the way of hazards to other golfers, kindly stepping aside allowing more hasty foursomes, eightsomes, and entire tournament rosters to play through, as the half-distance to the pin is achieved with each and every shot. I only had to pay one greens fee in my life, as I am still on the first hole, steadily gaining on the pin, halving the remaining distance with every stroke. Of course, this requires great skill in and of itself, since an errant stroke may cause one to enter negative territory, which is a whole different level of infinity I am not particularly interested in exploring, having had brief, unpleasant encounters with it when my first checking account taught me that the remaining checks your checkbook are not a suitable indicator of the funds remaining in your account.

There is an infinity half-way to the flag. When you become absorbed in a task, or in the close observation of anything, not necessarily having had the goal of becoming absorbed, but having simply found yourself so, which is only possible during the time absorption takes hold and the time of your recognition of having been thus absorbed, one might say that they have waded through an entire infinity, since time simply vanished. Time was not available. We can lose hours of time in an instant, and an instant can become a hundred lifetimes. I never ceases to impress me, this absorption.

I have never said, “I think I will go and do something so I can become completely absorbed in it.” It is just sort of the thing that overtakes one unawares, since it cannot take you aware. If you are aware of it, then you aren’t absorbed; your focus is incomplete. Complete focus renders complete absorption, and at that point, one has entered infinite realms. I have done this with the guitar, the banjo, the fiddle. I have done this with a great novel. I have done this while making a violin bow, or inlaying mother-of-pearl on a fingerboard. I have done this writing music, or sitting at this keyboard and writing this blog. As of late, I have done it in the dead of night reloading ammunition, which is a thing that requires great focus, for it is intolerant of distractions, and fools, and speculation.

“I wonder what would happen if I mixed this left-over bit of Powder A with this left-over bit of powder B and loaded some bullets with it,” Coy asked Junior, more to himself, really, than to Junior, directly, but he did so out loud. Junior wondered at this as well, but came to a better conclusion than Coy.

“I reckon you’d be a dunderhead. I ‘spec it’d blow up in your face,” he said.

“Well, smarty, we don’t KNOW that, now do we,” said Coy with a snort.

“No,” replied Junior, “We don’t. Therein lies the problem.”

Junior, always considered by family to be the lesser gifted of the two, was speaking through experience of a previous dunderheadedness of his own. There is no teacher like experience, and the recalled experience of Junior led him to look down at the power-burn tattoos on his hands with his one good eye, the glass one seeing only slightly less than his good eye, since Junior was a poster child for blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other.

“I reckon I better not do that,” said Coy, watching Junior look at the free-form, abstract impressionist tattoos, observing his immoveable glass eye, it remaining stationary as Junior’s other eye darted about, thinking that one portion of the powder-burn tattoos bore a slight resemblance to road-map of Florida, with the panhandle, main body, and the keys, Lake Okeechobee indelibly placed in the right spot, and what appeared to be a string of BURMA SHAVE signs facing West along an old two-lane portion US HWY 90.

When I have been inadvertently successful at absorption, I have noticed this….the “I” disappears. The ego vanishes and apparently inhabits the same infinite place to which time has vanished. Going back, I look at what I have written. “I” appears quite frequently. I think this. I did this. I did that. I only know that when I am cognizant of “I”, there is only self-absorption, and the absorption I am referring to is a relinquishing of self in favor of the thing at hand. It is only when the self is moved aside, for just a moment, that the inverse infinity overtakes us, and an entire lifetime can be spent in a single moment.

It is when the “I” retreats that we can go to sleep. Only when the “I” retreats can we find rest. Complete absorption in the inverse infinity produces rest similar to a good sleep, I reckon, or at least it seems so to me. Reckoning is all I have left on this, and that admission does not make me a loner, since cloistered, contemplative monks of old wondered how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. They wondered, then they speculated, then they reckoned. I reckon they should have wondered about something else, but maybe they had nothing else to wonder about. I certainly hope they didn’t argue with each other about it, for some things are beyond argument, and best kept silent.

I don’t wonder about dancing angels on pinheads, which may be a pin-headed admission, though not likely. I wonder where the time went as I reloaded some 10mm cartridges with 8.2 grains of Power Pistol powder and 180 grain Nosler Jacketed Hollow-Point bullets. Sometimes, I wonder how I got so much done I such a short period of time. I speculate about it. I wonder, again. I reckon I just got absorbed. I reckon there was joy in the absorption. I reckon that this joy is because my ego left me, and there was only the thing at hand, beckoning, compelling, drawing me in and caressing me as a loving mother caresses her infant child, the child not contemplating its ego but simply being there, and the mother only contemplating the child.

Then, I think of this and wonder what cows may think about when they are thinking. It is all too complex for one, stranded on the first hole, far removed from the fairway and safely on the green, steadily gaining on the cup, half-way with every putt.

I am certain of only one thing….I am certainly getting my money’s worth out of this golf game, and yes, you and your entire tournament roster are quite welcome to play through, as I am contemplating my next shot, determined to get it at least half-way to the cup this time, ever halving the distance to my goal.

There is plenty of time, except for those uninitiated in the art of absorption.

“Focus, son. Focus,” my granddaddy used to tell me. At that time, I focused on the fact that granddaddy thought I was improperly focused, and I focused on how I felt about that, which was the absolutely wrong thing to focus on.

If EGO becomes the object of one’s focus, one will find no answers, no reassurance, no comfort. One will find only bewilderment, influence no one, nor win any friends. One will only embrace the angst that led one to focus on his own ego. One must focus on something, however, but on anything other than one’s self if an infinite, expanding absorption is one’s goal, because a perilous self-absorption is a malignancy every bit as malevolent as the cancers people fight every day until their fight is finished, whatever the outcome. The self-absorbed fare no better or worse than the focused in the long run, but in the meantime, they miss out on an infinity at every turn, with every task, with every putt.

“Fore,” I shout as my too-hasty errant putt sails beyond the cup a few inches, threatening the sixteensome I allowed to play through. Now in negative territory, I am forced to ponder a different infinity…not the half-way one, but the beyond one.

That’s the one claimed by Buzz Lightyear.

“You reckon Buzz Lightyear knows anything about beyond infinity?” Junior asked me.

“I ‘spec he knows every bit as much as you and me, perhaps more, Junior. Maybe twice as much. Maybe half as much,” I said. “I can only wonder.”

“Well, back home, naught times naught is still naught, and half-a-naught is all naught. I reckon it is the same for Buzz.”

“I reckon so,” I said.

“Naught ain’t what it used to be,” Junior mused with a sigh, more to himself than me, but I heard him loud and clear.

Then I wondered.

©2015 Mississippi Chris Sharp

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