The infinite universe

“Do you know,” my father says, “that some scientists say the universe is infinite?” He stops, looking out towards the water, to the far mountains draped in their veil of dusk. “I just can’t quite believe it,” he says. “Infinite.”

Infinite. When I was a child, I used to look up and think, over and over, “Does the sky go on forever?” And then I would try to imaging “forever,” and I would thrust my imagined self up through the blue, from the transparency of my spot on earth into the deepening blue of the highest reaches of the sky, and onwards, the color darkening — sky blue, royal blue, navy blue, then a blue so dark it was almost black, but lit by the sparkles cast from stars everywhere, and onwards, onwards, till I was no longer in my body at all. The word “forever” that had started the flight upwards would disappear, replaced by a wordless wonder, a sense that I was not “me” at all but something else inconceivable and unknowable. Something would echo in my head, fizz through my body, a sensation indescribable. It was terrifying and comforting at once, the awareness of how tiny I was, how utterly insignificant, in the vastness of forever, and yet also how enduring and inseparable I was from what “was,” what Is.

Last week, at RCIA, another rite involving candles: “Why do we love candles so much?” the woman leading the rite asked. And then, “What lit your candle?” regarding the search that had brought us to our initiation into the church. “An experience when I was 10,” I said, remembering forever. Remembering the infinite universe.

“If the universe is not infinite,” I respond to Dad’s comment, “then it has to end. Then there have to be boundaries. What do those boundaries look like? And what’s on the other side?”

He looks at me, silent for a moment, shaking his head.

“I don’t know,” he says finally. “I just don’t know.”

2 responses to “The infinite universe

  1. I remember seeing a PBS special about the meaning of the infinite. A scientist pointed out that the human body contained an inner infinity as vast and real as the outward one we call the universe. Those words, and that image have never left me.

  2. That’s a great image, Patry. I’ll remember it too. Thanks for sharing it.

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