FINITE CHALLENGE - INFINITE LOVE

This post is inspired by two simultaneous thoughts about chance occurrence: one has to do with recognizing that sometimes certain synchronous events are concurrent in a way that one can deem as being almost excessive. The other has to do with a reminiscent thought which puts synchronicity on a continuum line. So what’s up? Lately the concept of infinity has started popping up in all sorts of contexts that are otherwise completely independent of each other. If it’s not friends who make recourse to it in very interesting ways, then, it’s all around you either in the form of books, virtual conversations, or old compulsions that insist on resurfacing.

To give an example: while reading the latest entry on one of my favorite blogs, Good Math, Bad Math, about Georg Cantor’s continuum hypothesis – all about infinity not being singular but in competition with other infinities, depending on how you count on the N, Q, and R sets of numbers – I get a mail from a friend, one of the editors of the Nietzsche Circle who wants me to translate some Cioran for Hyperion. This I tell my sister, and then because I don’t want to separate my body from the sofa, I ask her to bring me the Romanian version of Cioran’s The Book of Delusions (1936). She can’t find it and brings me instead his first On the Hights of Despair. While making a rejecting movement with my hand, I notice a bookmark, so I open the book. Sure enough, the mark falls on the fragment called “The Cult of Infinity.” I instantly get more enthusiastic. As a consequence I throw myself in the midst of the chatter created by the math lovers on Mark Chu-Carroll’s blog. I sign up to Typepad and leave a comment in the form of a citation. Although I know in advance that it’s only going to be the mathematicians with a highly developed sense of aesthetics that will get it, I nevertheless venture into the land of wonders, snatch slot 33, and write this in the comment box:

“Infinity leads to nothing for it is totally provisional. ‘Everything’ is too little when compared to infinity [...] The penchant for form comes from love of finitude, the seduction of boundaries which will never engender metaphysical revelations [...] Let us live in the ecstasy of infinity, let us love that which is boundless, let us destroy forms and institute the only cult without forms: the cult of infinity.” (99-100)

Now this is all very nice, only, when Rainer inquired on how it was going with my translation of Cioran, the ever gracious person that he is, he placed in his mail something which he knew I would rather like to hear: a reference, namely, to Karmen MacKendrick’s book: Immemorial Silence. Well, of course, MacKendrick, who talks about some of my French favorites, Bataille, Blanchot, and others, makes this comment on Jab├Ęs’s poetry: “We need the finite, the spoken and the written, in order to reach toward the infinity which may be fatal to us” (52). Well, of course, again, to those who have even remotely entertained the idea of the infinite, the fact that infinity drove the best of them mad, will not come as a surprise. But as there’s only one life we’re gonna live, as far as we know, who cares really about degrees of insanity in the face of the pleasure that one derives from exploring such an interesting topic! So, we go with it. I’ve been thinking about infinity on many levels since I was little, and I’m happy to say that, as far as I know, I don’t know of anyone who is more sane than myself. All right, I know that the Poe specialists, who will identify this situation with all the mad first person narrators in Poe’s short stories who claimed the exact same thing, will issue a warning. But I take my chances. However, enough of this kind of infinity – there are more examples, quite astonishing some of them, but I’ll keep those to myself, which brings me on to the next topic.

The second event entangles subjectivity with a more concrete manifestation of infinity which is not as abstract as Cantor’s, whom by the way, everyone should read. I was reminded over dinner that when I wrote my master’s thesis I always seemed to have been ahead even of the meetings with my supervisor. On our penultimate meeting, when trying to find a date for a last encounter, I said to my supervisor that it could happen on any of the following days. He looked at me with an incredulous look, even though by then he had already learned that when I said Tuesday, then, it was Tuesday for handing in drafts and the like.

I could tell by the way he was gazing at me that he was very eager to grab the opportunity to tell me the following: “listen, if I were you, I wouldn’t make any promises. You know, it’s not that easy to write the final pages in a continuous flow in just a few days.” Upon having uttered what he assumed was dead certain, he gave me a triumphantly complicit smile. Only, he forgot one thing: to count on what a woman has in her bag. So that look only lasted for very brief moment. Alas. For him.

What happened next was something that I now both cherish as a memory, but which, paradoxically, also gives me an ambivalent feeling towards the way in which I perceive myself. This often manifests itself in an outburst formulated thus: “God, I hate my guts.” What I did was to make a gesture of the most ungenerous kind, insofar as it completely took away the man’s pleasure in challenging me. I defied him in a most supreme way. From a performative point of view, I shall never forget the pleasure I felt at seeing his face, now horrified, as he realized what my elegant counter-move consisted of. I felt like a fucking musketeer who ever so passionately and skillfully swerves her sword over the heads of the almighty. I took 33 pages of my thesis from my bag and let all of them flow onto his desk like snow. I said to him: “next time you want to challenge me, give me 3 minutes that would allow me to do some proof-reading.” That was exactly what was missing from my work, which was also the reason why he hadn’t gotten the pages earlier. I can say this now: some people become infinitely smarter on a collision course with synchronicity. They learn to love what is worth loving in others and then in themselves.

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