Consider Infinity by Yaz El-Ashmawi

Consider Infinity. Arguably a task easier said then done, but one shouldn’t lose heart, as there is still truth to be found on the quest to find absolute knowledge, even if one can’t find that knowledge absolutely. And the truth to be found here is absolutely essential to the knowledge of something as infinite as the universe, as objective truth, and of the inconceivable, incomprehensible gestures of a hand that conducts all things. And yet, not only is the very existence of such a hand a topic of endless questions, but also, perhaps equally, is its shape and tone; strength and delicacy; compassion and wrath; mercy and judgement; questioned frequently on all sides with all sides declaring fervently that their side knows the truth absolutely and that that truth is both absolute and infinite. Which may, I think, be a contradiction. Because to define something infinite is to inevitably limit it, and some thinking thing, in finite form, should have no final say in infinity.

Perhaps now, we start to see the difficulties in speaking in terms of a concept as crude and relative as size. In our heads we send our mind’s eye to the sky, extend a line, and call length without end the essence of endlessness except that’s not quite right: infinity does not have to merely embody a length. There’s a kind of depth there too. 

In mathematics they say (and in such a faculty things are not spoken of without proof thereof) that there are more numbers contained between two fixed boundaries than there are whole integers. That is: counting from zero to one to two to three so on so forth indefinitely, provides less numbers than simply counting the numbers between zero and one. Or, in even simpler terms, with the full weight of logic and mathematics behind the statement: the biggest things are not just that which are long but full; not just that which are tall, but deep. 

And there perhaps exists no sentiment quite as illuminating than the very luminance presented by colourless white light itself. The word ‘colourless’ is not misplaced here: white is not a colour. No photon has a frequency that produces it; no white LED that consists of only a single diode; no paint shade that is but a combination of pigments. It is constructed. With ink: cyan, yellow and magenta. 

In our own eyes: red, green and blue. When combined, we find that which we are all so familiar: that particular brightness. But when white light itself is the origin, it does not merely split into a trinity - the whole colour spectrum is contained within, more than every colour imaginable. A rainbow is not just a mixture of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet: it contains everything in between too. 

White light embodies this deeper infinity: an infinity that fills a finite space infinitely; larger than just some un-fillable, un-unifiable infinite space, it is the fullness between two frequencies: zero and one, far-red and hyper-blue, and everything contained within. It is the amassing of every colour imaginable; a mass of masslessness managing to emerge into an unmistakable brightness from clashing shades; hues that once seemed so contradictory that those lights looked different entities entirely. White light is, in essence, an ideal; a construct greater than the sum of its parts. It is an emergence, standing on the shoulders of individual frequencies of light; individual colours; neatly- fitting jigsaw pieces that form one giant overall painting; brush strokes small and intricate, yet each distinct, each unique. 

In the Bahá'í faith, God is regarded in a way not dissimilar to this. Believers speak of an omnipotence that has touched individuals and cultures across the whole word; revolutionary revelations revealed through His manifestations; the articulation of His story throughout history. Each religion a part of the puzzle of absolute truth; white light in the process of construction, with colours added once at a time in the form of religions borne from messengers of God. And although I cannot confess to fully subscribe to the religion, this idea innately resonates within me. 

We often speak of individuals as ‘finding’ God, yet we regard the inception of a religion not as a discovery to be found, but as a given gift; some sacred, selfless present; a presence sent to present itself to ourselves. 

We often consider faith to be a deeply personal, perhaps even introspective, experience, yet we spar with the belief systems of others; pitching Gods against one-another all-too-often in the attempt to reaffirm our own beliefs; as if another’s subjective experience with the Sublime expresses a reduction of our own; that what is ‘known’ by us must be known by each and every other soul; as if the heat of different views threatens to burn away truths that seem so contradictory that all these. Gods look different entities entirely. 

But perhaps in doing so we can be disposed to forgo the richness of perspective, and the wealth that the variation of people across all creeds offers us as a species. And we refrain from considering that the very thing that makes our faiths so personal and unique is also the thing that makes them so distinct. Universalism is an easy ideal to reject. It oft swoops in, blindly declaring all ideals equal and demanding equal acceptance from all - ideally ignoring any contradictions or delicacies; reducing the intricacy and beauty of a belief into a blank canvas for all to unequivocally agree on. 

But perhaps what it aspires to do is not so ignoble. After all, faith is personal, and to honour that is to acknowledge that the way we see our own image in Universal eyes is a reflection of the way we see ourselves. That, whilst many of us indeed see mankind as made in His image, we can be blind to the differences in the images of different kinds of man. So that when we look upon God (whatever that may mean for us) we inevitably do so through a lens crafted from our own mind’s eye: an eye witness to a life’s worth of experience: moments of either strength or delicacy; compassion or wrath; mercy or judgement. 

At times of wondering reflection I find myself inclined to wander further than even the Bahá'í beliefs. To consider a religion, rather than a building block of colour, as instead a shade of whiteness in and of itself; a colour-spectral- conglomerate composed of yet another nested-set of near-infinite contributions: sources of light that propagate packets of brightness outwards; illuminating neighbouring nations and populations and regions; clashing subtleties in ideologies sowing the seeds of revolution and revelation, and the elevation (perhaps even salvation) of the societies of our species across history.

And I might wander further still. To suggest that these streams of colour that comprise a religion propagate from within that very religion; from within, even, the components that comprise that religion: from within each and every one of us. That, alongside any and every single soul; every spark of life that has ever been and seen and thought and spoken, is a unique myriad of hues; sparks of experience and expression; reflections of our so-called ‘essence’, of our so-called ‘humanity’ left in the wake of our Living. 

That we leave footprints. And where there might be harmony in palettes, so too would there be compatibilities in ideologies. And the scene created; the scene we are creating; is the sum of our collective journey. A scene bathed in the hues of sacred saffrons; of Tekhelet blues; of rich, Islamic greens; painted on pitched flags; set against one- another; colours of free-markets and demarcated freedoms; of war and stained crimson swords and uniforms; the scene formed as billions of non- homogenous, genius, homo-genus primates discover both themselves and each-other over the course of 200,000 years. 

That these colours; these fractures of whiteness; these splinters of infinity; should emanate from humanity is evident of not only our breadths, but of our depths too. Indeed, we are large, and the multitudes we contain attest to our collective capacity to experience; and interpret; and reason; and create; and love; and be Loved. 

And it is this capacity that I ask to consider when I ask to consider Infinity. To consider the image of mankind as the infinite construction and combination of entirety fractured white light: the image of whitely-lit Divine hands left burning on the retinas of the eyes of a kind-of ‘Divine hive- mind’. That is, that if each and every life is indeed made in His image, then the image we all create is the image of the Creation of Life –– with that familiar, particular brightness of Life, or of God, or of the Universe, or Earth, or the impossible revolutions of heavenly spheres of the infinite and Divine; a bright, white glow constructed from sparks of colour that emanate from within us: the emergence of transcendence through the coalescence of immanence. 

And if one would feel so inclined as to introduce the concept of duty into faith, perhaps it would be to help in the preservation of that building of the brightness. To aid it in its construction and to listen to what the ‘other’ has to say. What their best and brightest, their Einsteins and Michelangelos and prophets and saints had to say. What it has noticed. What it celebrates. 

Interfaith rhetoric is often packaged with words like ‘tolerance’ and ‘endurance’, yet I struggle to consider the concept of interfaith in terms of anything other than just that: a ‘celebration’. To consider our prophets as our Einsteins and their revelations as the science, art, philosophy, psychology and mental existentialism that they brought into the world. Not perfect, but still Divine. Perhaps not fully understood. 

But understanding infinity is (as we’ve established) a difficult thing to be doing –– and certainly to be communicating to others! And to understand it absolutely is perhaps not possible at all (as I’ve said, to define something infinite is to inevitably limit it, and some thinking thing, in finite form, was never going to comprehend endless infinity without being endless infinity itself). 

And yet, we may still look deeply at the diversity evident within the spectrum of splinters of the Sublime that radiate out through the hundreds of different people, cultures, traditions and beliefs we witness in our lifetimes. And we can learn from them. That we might tend to our collective image constructed by mankind for mankind from colours streaming from the footprints our kind leave on this planet. Our legacy is also our future, and if Heaven is our future, then within it is also our legacy, and within Hell is perhaps no legacy at all –– the most frightening property of fire has always seemed to me to be one of reduction: that, should we burn, none and nothing of Us would remain, our remains reduced by those flames so that the very wood that burns us is indistinguishable to us, that our swan song is silence and the footprints we leave on this Earth are just scorched layers of ashes, to ashes, to dust. 

If whatever it is that I am –– my views, thoughts, mannerisms, beliefs, passions and visions –– my colours –– if ever they were to shine through another –– be it through music, or writing, or conversations with friends or loved ones –– a hue of who I am living through another –– however briefly –– I would consider it a legacy worthy of all the promises of heaven I was told as a child. 

For what is the purpose of worship if not to both consider one’s place in the grand scheme of things and be humbled by the greater whole. To both consider one’s own light and bathe in the light of the whole star. And fight for that light with illumination, acceptance, expression, creation, faith, progress, open-mindedness, righteousness and Love.