Week 39. Infinity

I dont think of myself as a perfectionist: I shave my legs at random so they are never smooth all at once, just in strips; I wear the same red pants on weekends; I hang wool socks up as if time were equivalent to a washing machine; when I can, I wear Birkenstocks with suits.

But yet, for my field collections, my laboratory measurements, calculations of error propagation I focus every ember of spirit as if it were a ritual connecting me directly to god. It is only with work that my animal instinct of competition kicks in, a vibrating anxiety for perfection. I drove 8500 miles to hike, swim, and collect water and mud from 100 lakes in the Rocky Mountains. I ran from beaker to masher to digester in the laboratory to process samples, then slept on the floor running them through a mass spec.

The jingle that plays as an ear worm, arrives like Tinkerbell to save me, is the mathematical concept of approaching infinity but never arriving. Limits, edges, what is good enough. The aim is always perfection, but that isnt a place on a map.

Medium: Needle and thread, sharpie, water color

In my first university math class, my leather-miniskirted professor told us that calculus was the closest we could ever come to touching infinity. She said it was like robbing a museum in a movie, dangling by wires through a skylight, unable to contact the ground without disaster.

I’d rather come very close than touch. I’d rather be on the outside, watching.

I had a dream once that I was sitting with God and watching the Big Bang. The air was both calm and windy; everything was so flat. God was the shooting star emoji  – my favorite, though I can see why people would prefer the red balloon, the tulip bouquet, the snowcone.

The infinity symbol is a mathematical rose: connecting, continuing, converging, petals looping from a single point and returning. It doesn’t exist until you assemble it in your mind, and then it lasts forever.

Where eternity (time without end) is nightmarish, infinity has a sweetness to it. Space without end, or the potential to climb and add and unfold, to fling outward and become something wholly new. The way Patroclus says of his love Achilles, “I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”

Materials: Faber-Castell Pitt artist pen (super-fine, sanguine), colored pencil

Patroclus’ quote is from Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles


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