“The buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching toward infinity.” – A. Edward Newton
I have an ongoing fascination with the infinite. Maybe it’s because I’m rather finite myself, with only so many days left at the dance with life. Or maybe its the humility that comes with thinking about things bigger than yourself that attracts me. Whatever, the attraction is real. The French have an expression for it: l’éblouissement de l’infinit or “dazzling infinity”. I think that’s a fitting adjective to tack on to the infinite. For who among us who bothers to look up from their phone isn’t dazzled by the vastness of the universe?
I try to create infinity bookends in a day by getting up early for sunrises and going out late to look at the stars as one way of putting myself at the edge of forever. And it might explain the draw of rivers and the ocean and the mountains. Each dazzles in their own way because they’re both silent witnesses to forever while simultaneously the embodiment of it.
The Newton quote above hits close to home. I do collect impossibly large stacks of books that I fear I’ll never get around to. But rather than reign in my collection I add to it. Someday maybe I’ll finish the stack, but I know its almost certainly blind optimism talking. I may never get to all of the books or all of the places I want to go to, but that doesn’t mean I won’t vainly believe deep down that its possible I could.
Watching the post-sunset show along the shore of Buzzards Bay a couple of nights ago I thought about the long list of experiences I’d like to have before I go gently into the night. It seemed a rather long and impossible list given the state of the world at the present moment, but I think its rather like the stack of books. I may not get to everything on the list, but hopefully I’ll get to enough.
“Watch the stars in their courses and imagine yourself running alongside them. Think constantly on the changes of the elements into each other, for such thoughts wash away the dust of earthly life.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations