I felt a push from an unknown source to write about infinity for my first article at Elephant Journal. Tom me, this word was best expressed on 11/11/2011, a calculation of the numbers; 1+1+1+1+2+1+1, or 8, an inverted symbol of infinity.
On 11/11, I lived in each and every moment, filled with an abundance of gratitude towards the infinite universe. I allowed myself to be overtaken with joy and feel a brief glimpse of enlightenment.
Infinity is used in many areas; it is a term used in mathematics and physics describing no end, maybe not even a beginning. It’s been used to depict the endless cycle of death and rebirth and is a tool one uses when trying to understand something greater than ourselves.
It is nothing yet everything at the same time, a mystery not known to man.
In terms of mathematics, infinity is not a number, but all there is. Math is a field that counts the definite; we will never be able to count to infinity because the count itself becomes a never-ending process.
There is a branch in physics called quantum physics that studies the behavior of energy and matter at a molecular, atomic and nuclear level. Scientists in this field have discovered that we are all interconnected and use the relationships of electrons in matter to support their theories. All the largest questions in physics (along with philosophy and religion) are based upon nothingness and eternity, or zero and infinity. They are equal and yet opposite, the yin and yang of quantum physics.
A beautiful article in everythingforever.com summarized the relationship stating that when we “multiply zero by anything and you get zero. Multiply infinity by anything and you get infinity. Dividing a number by zero yields infinity; dividing a number by infinity yields zero. Adding zero to a number leaves the number unchanged. Adding a number to infinity leaves infinity unchanged. ” Infinity is something larger then the human mind can grasp.
Infinity, or lemniscuses in Latin, denotes a ribbon. John Walli created the symbol in 1655. It looks like a love knot, or a lazy eight.
However, even prior to 1655, ancient India and Tibet had introduced the symbol as a representation of dualism, perfection, and the unity between a male and a female. It was found in Tibetan rock carvings and in Egypt as early as 1600 BC. In Egypt, the symbol appeared as an infinity snake, with the serpent biting its own tail, signifying a never-ending cycle. This symbol is also a representation of the cyclic renewal of life, becoming part of the entire zodiac sign to define the eternity of time.
Infinity is represented in both Hinduism and in Zen Buddhism. However, the symbol is a circle, i.e. one can go round and round forever. Many Hindus believe that creation itself is a circle of an endless cycle, and for many Buddhists, this circle represents their eternity.
In cosmology, the question, “is the universe infinite?” refers to Earth’s circumference. By travelling in a straight line around Earth, one will inevitably return to the area in which they started. Hypothetically, this theory could be applied to measure the universe, if it had the same topology, i.e. if one were to travel in a straight line around the universe, one might eventually return to the starting point. However, this theory would not work if the universe is continuously expanding universe or if it were flat. Then, it would be both unbound and infinite.
I want to end here by stating that there are many ways in which one uses the term infinity. For me, the most important meaning is when used in relation to the universe. I believe that infinity represents the never-ending mystery of the cosmos, that it has the ability to make our dreams a reality. We become what we think about most of the time, and infinity is the extent to which we can think, the extent to which we can talk, and the extent to which we can act. It is unbounded, and has no limitations, just like the universe.