infinitude (and beyond)

if you look long enough into the abyss, the abyss will look back into you

niet­zsche


when i was a lit­tle kid, about sev­en, eight, or maybe even nine i used to think about space a great deal.
all the oth­er kids i grew up with loved cow­boys. maybe that’s why i loved space. i even remem­ber try­ing to per­suade my mates to play ‘space­men’ and aliens instead of cow­boys and indi­ans. yes. no polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness back then. my par­ents noticed this and bought me lots of books on astron­o­my. i was very pre­co­cious. i remem­ber a book writ­ten by patrick moore ‘the boy’s book of space’ in which he had assert­ed quite cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly (writ­ten in the ‘fifties i believe) that space trav­el was cen­turies off and cer­tain­ly wouldn’t appear in his or even my life­time. it’s quite a sur­prise to find that there are quite a num­ber of mil­lenials now who find it very dif­fi­cult to believe that space trav­el took place at all. the moon land­ings cer­tain­ly look his­tor­i­cal, and hard to look like an estab­lished his­tor­i­cal fact.

one night i fell into the ‘think­ing about infin­i­ty’ trap. i lay in bed think­ing about the uni­verse, and the idea that it just goes on for­ev­er, with­out end, even if there were an end, i asked myself, what was beyond it? maybe anoth­er uni­verse? but that just means infin­i­ty again. i even thought about the notion of the mul­ti-verse (although not in name, i wasn’t that pre­co­cious) but it didn’t real­ly help. and it sud­den­ly ter­ri­fied me.

it absolute­ly ter­ri­fied me

i was even­tu­al­ly so con­sumed with ter­ror that i burst into tears. it was real ter­ror. exis­ten­tial fear. a sub­lime pan­ic. my par­ents even­tu­al­ly heard my wails and tried to com­fort me but i don’t think they believed it could be what i said it was. not at my age. i can’t real­ly recon­struct this ter­ror, but i think it might have been, this con­tem­pla­tion of what the infi­nite means, what lies at the base of all fears, like death, not that it means the end, but that it might not be the end, that there might be some­thing much worse than the worst of this world.

noth­ing. forever.

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