In Which We Try to Contemplate The Finite

Interesting and worthwhile essay over at The Immanent Frame in which Patrick Lee Miller writes about spirituality and the finite. It’s pretty intriguing; an excerpt:

Remove finitude, and the fabric of everything we know comes apart. Try to imagine a baseball game, for example, with an infinite number of innings. Even if the glorious bodies of the eschaton could play without fatigue forever, the deepest problem with this alluring fantasy—at least for baseball enthusiasts—is that there could never be a winner. No matter how wide a gap in score opened up during such a game, the losing team would always have the consolation of other innings in which to close it. With so specious a consolation, however, would disappear all the drama and meaning of the game. This meaning would disappear still more if eternity were not infinite time, as some imagine it, but instead all time gathered into one moment, as others prefer. What drama, what sense, would there be in a baseball game whose ninth and first innings were co-present? None more than a game of infinite successive innings.

Now, if the excitement of sport has never gripped you, try to imagine Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire dancing to a song of infinite length. Their technique would remain as dazzling as the talent of the resurrected Lou Gehrig, and it is just as tempting to fantasize about them dancing forever as it is to imagine him playing his last game one more inning, and then another…but what was most valuable in their art, as in his play, would then be lost. Without a sense of the end, and thus of the shape of their movements, the beauty and drama they achieved in finite time would become the infinite and thus meaningless repetition of technique; or, if eternity be imagined as all moments gathered together, this finite beauty and drama would become the absurdity of every move executed at once, and so on for every activity we know. Life itself, as the activity of activities, requires the finitude imposed on it ultimately by death to preserve its meaning.


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