Looking for Infinity

It is a fault of infinity to be too small to find. It is a fault of eternity to be crowded out by time. Before our eyes we see an unbroken sheath of colors. We live over a bulk of things. We walk amid a congeries of colored things that part before our steps to reveal more colored colored things. Above us hurtle more things, which fill the universe. There is no crack. Mountains and hills, lakes, deserts, forests, and plains fully occupy their continents. Where, then, is the gap through which eternity streams?

And this is what we love: this human-scented skull, the sheen on the skin of a face, this exhilarating game, this crowded feast, these shifting mountains, the dense water and its piercing lights. It is our lives we love, our times, our generation, our pursuits. And are we called to forsake these vivid and palpable goods for an idea of which we experience nor one trace? Am I to believe eternity outranks my child’s finger?

Let us rest the material view and consider, just consider, that the weft of materials admits of a very few, faint, unlikely gaps. People are, after all, still disappearing, still roping robes on themselves, still braving the work of prayer, insisting they hear something, even fighting and still dying for it. The impulse to a spiritual view persists, and the evidence of that view’s power among historical forces and among contemporary ideas persists, and the claim of reasoning men and women that they know God from experience persists.

This Bible, this ubiquitous, persistent black chunk of a bestseller, is a chink – often the only chink – through which winds howl. It is a singularity, a black hole into which our rich and multiple world strays and vanishes. We crack open its pages at our peril. Many educated, urbane, and flourishing experts in every aspect of business, culture, and science have felt pulled by this anachronistic, semibarbaric mass of antique laws and fabulous tales from far away; they entered its queer, strait gates and were lost. Eyes open, heads high, in full possession of their critical minds, they obeyed the high, inaudible whistle, and let the gates close behind them.

Annie Dillard

(Excerpt abridged from “The Book of Luke”, The Annie Dillard Reader, 265-266.)


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