Infinity

Math has never been one of my strong points in school and I guess it has to do with the lack of objectivity that I think exists within it. Now I’m not a math major and taking Calculus right now is probably the cause of my hair falling out, but from the way I see Math, I tend to see it as an un-objective subject. When you were young you were taught 2 plus 2 is 4. That is it. It’s not 3, it’s not 5, it’s not 4 1/2, it is 4 and that is final. You get to high school and learn that 2x plus 2 = 4 and that you can solve for x and get an answer. You will always get an answer that can be proven right (or wrong).

So when I learned that there was an “infinity” in math I was shocked. No answer? 2 plus 2 is four, how can you tell me that there is actually a question whose answer is infinity: an immeasurable number of an answers?

Now seeing that we would be reading a book on math, on the concept of infinity, I wondered how it would be possible for an author to take such a subject an write about it in a literary way. I did have more hope because since infinity is infinite and there is no one answer saw this concept as more literary than say a simple algebraic equation that has just one answer. I think by picking infinity Wallace tries to portray an item in math, that although is usually thought of as subjective for a lack of variety in answers, he chose to take the one item that is abstract because it can be an infinite amount of things.

I think Wallace was actually able to do do that right away in “Infinite More.” On page 13 he talks about the concept of abstraction and how it is an answer because there do exists things that we as humans do not really want to know. “The dreads and dangers of abstract thinking are a big reason why we now all like to stay so busy and bombarded with stimuli all the time.” Then come this whole idea about waking up too early and thinking that the floor might collapse comes up. And we get a feeling of paranoia, actual fear that “you know what? The speaker is right, how do I know that the floor won’t collapse on me?”

(As I just arrived last night from spring break and am now looking at my 48 lb suitcase on the floor and wondering if that extra weight might actually crack the floor, my personal paranoia is starting to increase.)

Maybe Wallace wants to show us how the abstractness in Math can be written about in a literary way?

4 responses to “Infinity