Ayurveda Day 22: Infinity

So we had last week off for American Thanksgiving. I enjoyed the break and even took a break from blogging. Not that I had any shortage of topics to write about mind you, but it’s nice to put down the pen (or keyboard) for a while sometimes.

Rather than jump right back into the details of Ayurveda, I want to stray a bit today and talk about something else.

Math!

Okay, so first I should state quite loudly and clearly that I am not a mathematician, and I dropped out of Math 11 in high school. My dad is the mathematician in our family.

Numbers make my brain hurt. At work, I often describe my role as coordinator at the daycare in 4 focuses: The kids, the staff, the centre itself, and admin work.

No one is great at all of these. Usually, people are only good at one or two, or maybe even amazingly three of the four. I admittedly am very lacking in the admin department. When it comes to numbers, my mind turns into a pile of goo. Perhaps it is my tendency (hah! I wrangled Ayurveda into this after all!). I thrive with words, pictures, people…but numbers just don’t do it for me.

Then again, sometimes they do, when they are exciting.

So let’s talk about my favourite mathematical concept:

Infinity.

Recently, I learned something kind of weird. That if you add up literally all the numbers, every single one, both positive and negative, you can get two different answers.

Basically, the sum of all numbers can equal either zero…or one.

This seems strange and counter-intuitive. You would think that adding up every number ever would give you some ridiculous high unfathomable number or something. That’s at least what I thought. But then, upon closer inspection, zero and one actually do make perfect sense.

For every positive number, there is an opposite negative version. So, if we add up every number, it would look something like this:

1 + -1 + 2 + -2 + 3 + -3….

You can see how each of these pairs cancel each other out. But depending on where you stop, either with a positive number or a negative number, you would either end up with a value left over, or no value, zero.

Okay, so you are probably bored by now, or your head hurts, or you are rolling you eyes, or clicking the “X” in the top right of your screen. But wait!

This means something pretty amazing!

It means that the number zero itself contains every single number possible. It is only by removing a negative integer from this infinite sum that we even get any values. It’s like the number zero is every single possible thing, combined. A singularity. It is the potential for something, but exists as a giant nothing!

Imagine our universe, when it was a singularity, where everything was one and connected and indistinguishable. It was in it’s maximum state of symmetry. Ever since we had separation (the big bang), the universe has moved away from symmetry, towards entropy (disorder).

It is only by removing a value from zero that we even get this entropy. We remove a -1 from the equation, and we are left with +1. In other words, if no thing decided to separate from this zero, for whatever reason, then we wouldn’t have anything. We would just have this singularity. A giant blob, simultaneously nothing and potentially everything. Without separation, nothing could even exist!

I am saying zero and infinity are like two sides of the same coin. Two different ways of looking at the same thing. And when we remove something from that zero or infinity, we lose that sense of complete symmetry. It kind of makes sense though when you let it sink in. If everything truly was combined, then there would be no separation, no distinction. Even the idea of infinity and zero being separate would have to merge, because that is the ultimate form of symmetry. Everything one in the same.

It’s as if even the idea of nothing contains within itself the potential for everything.

What a crazy universe we live in! So the next time you may have a hard time understanding how an atheist can believe in nothing or a theist can believe in something, just take a moment to appreciate that maybe both are right. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive.

I will close with a story about the Buddha:

A man once came up to Buddha and asked,
“Wise Buddha, I am an intellectual and an atheist. Can you tell me if there is a god?”
To which The Buddha replied, “Of course there is!”
Another man came up to Buddha and asked,
“Wise Buddha, I am a devout believer. Can you tell me if there is a god?”
To which The Buddha replied, “Of course there isn’t!”

To the truly enlightened, I suppose even the attachment to one’s beliefs on god are an obstacle that must be overcome. Perhaps the truth is like this idea of zero and infinity, and we are all just arguing pointlessly.

Tomorrow I will drop the maths talk and return to the science of Ayurveda 🙂

Thanks for indulging me on this tangent.

With gratitude,

S

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