Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Different-Sized Infinities: A Guide to Pretentious but Accurate Ideas

Last night I stayed up late (well late for me, it was like 1:30am) re-reading The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. I had originally read this book in January when it was released, but the story was just as engaging and thought-provoking now, six months later. That's the thing I love about good literature, reading it once is simply not enough. One particular quote from the narrative stuck out to me while I was reading and laughing while also perpetually crying my eyes out (it's that kind of book). The quote is, "Some infinities are bigger than other infinities." For the weeks and months following the novel's release this, among many, many, others (John Green is an exceptionally quotable person) floated around Tumblr as the masses took to photoshop and other editing capabilities to visually portray their favorite thoughts and ideas.

As I saw this quote over and over (and over and over and over- teenagers and Green fans can be a little exhaustive in their enthusiasm) I tried to understand it, and came up short each time. By its very definition, infinity doesn't really have a size at all, and if it does, it is most certainly one size. That's simple logic.

However, reading the story again yesterday, I think I finally understood the point that was being made. Explained mathematically in TFIOS; there is an infinite amount of numbers between 0 and 1, with .1, .11, .112, and so on. But there is also an infinite amount between 0 and 2, but that infinity would be bigger because there is, just, more. The technical and number-y logic behind this may be flawed, I don't know, but I'm a proponent of metaphor regardless. It's not a perfect representation of relationships and memories, but I like the idea.

While in Math, the infinities get bigger when the space increases, in my life this has not been the case. The physical duration of time spent in a certain place with certain people has provided no determination of importance or prominence in future memory. Whether it was four years back home where I was happy and comfortable, four months abroad where I woke up, or a year in Connecticut where I discovered happiness doesn't have to be temporary, the infinities given to me were equally spectacular. These occasions may change or shrink in importance to me later, as I add to my lexicon of experience, but right now I treasure them.

And I realize that as I believed earlier, this thought that infinities change in size defies even the most basic logic. But really, this can be said also of many of the thoughts and ideals that make independent thought and belief interesting. If everything was logical and easily explained, literature would be pretty useless.