First let me say that I got a C in Maths and it was my most prized GCSE result because I was so appalling at it and convinced I was going to have to re-take. So…..we are not discussing pure maths in this blog and we are not musing on mysteries of physics.
My son has been obsessed with infinity. My favourite example being his version of that sweet children’s book about the Daddy and baby hare entitled, Guess How much I love you?, where they compete to give visual representations of how immense their love is for each other; the culmination being “to the moon and back.” For my baby hare, bless him, it was “infinity times to the moon and back”.
I think all of us find it hard to take in quite how much more of existence there is beyond our horizons. But if you’re a child it must seem even more stunning. And yet, because they haven’t travelled and haven’t got a developed sense of distance or of perspective, it’s totally impossible for them to realise distances even within our own planet. They don’t know that a long car journey from London to Devon wouldn’t get you an ants length on a gigantic play map.
So, yes infinity is bigger than a hundred and infinity is bigger than everything because it’s not a number, it’s an idea. We cannot go beyond infinity. But like all competitive children they surely want to!
It’s the Somewhere over the Rainbow syndrome. And like children, we adults have it big time. Our horizons frustrate us, but perhaps if our children realise how seemingly close to them an ant’s horizon is, they’d see how the rest of planet earth might as well be infinity to those tiny creatures.
Talking about infinity is really talking about perspective. Perhaps that’s a practical way of getting a sense of this unfathomable concept.
And I think it helps that children know we find it unfathomable. That shouldn’t be seen as frightening, although it could be; they don’t want us to be ignorant. We need to show excitement I think; excitement that we live in a universe barely discovered. Maybe their generation – or even they – will be the first to set foot on Mars. That perspective will push the horizon still further, but there will never cease to be an horizon to move towards. I suppose that could be the definition of “hope”.
So how do your children deal with the perspectives of time and space? What sort of questions have they asked?