An Infinity Within The Finite

Jun 25, 2016 / Photography / Influences / image meaning

Adult business man with glasses facing himself as a young boy with swimming goggles
FaceTime, 2015Collaged & Toned Cyanotype Print. 11.2” x 20”. Limited edition of 12 (Variable).

Infinity is a concept that fascinates me. It fascinates a lot of people too.

Publisher Blue Mitchell titled the newest Diffusion Magazine Lemniscate which is a symbol for infinity.

Maria Popova of brainpickings recently posted an article entitled, Infinity and Me: An Illustrated Parable at the Meeting Point of Science, Philosophy, and Love Converge.

Popova’s article then reminded me of a story that Joseph Campbell told in his book Pathways to Bliss. I really love this story.

I once overheard the clergyman at an Anglican wedding ceremony say to the couple something like this: “Live your life in such a way that you will merit eternal life in the future.” I thought, Well, that’s not quite correctly phrased. What he might have said, I thought, was this: Live your life, your marriage, in such a way that you will experience your eternal life now. Because eternity is not a long time.

Eternity is not future or past. Eternity is a dimension of now. It is a dimension of the human spiritäóîwhich is eternal. Find that eternal dimension in yourself, and you will ride through time and throughout the whole length of your days.

I don’t know why this story moves me so much, but it does.

Artist M.C. Escher was fascinated with infinity within the finite. If you’ve seen illustrations of people walking on a staircase that seems to go up and then seem to go down, round and round in an endless loop, you’ve seen his work. But my favorite illustrations are figures that recede to infinity and yet are bounded by a circle. Infinity within the finite. 

I’m also reminded of dialogue in the 2013 movie Her starring Joaquin Phoenix who plays a lonely guy who falls in love with a computer operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson. There is a scene at the end where Johansson’s character says goodbye: 

It’s like I’m reading a book, and it’s a book I deeply love, but I’m reading it slowly now so the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you and the words of our story, but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world - it’s where everything else is, that I didn’t even know existed.

That piece of dialogue mystifies me. It feels transcendent.

Once again, it’s the infinity within the finite. It’s like π sits between the whole numbers 3 and 4. There is no doubt about it. I love infinity.

So how does infinity show up in my images?

It’s in the color blue. Blue is the color of infinity.

One last quote and this one comes from Carl Jung. According to Jung, life is 

a short episode between two great mysteries, which yet are one.

This is another way to express infinity. There is the time before birth, then life, then the time after death, which yet are one. Now, look at the collaged photograph Facetime. The black bars on either side are formed by one piece of paper. Embedded within the composition of this photograph is the concept of infinity within the finite.

Adult business man with glasses facing himself as a young boy with swimming goggles
FaceTime, 2015Collaged & Toned Cyanotype Print. 11.2” x 20”. Limited edition of 12 (Variable).

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