Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Swimming through Infinity

What is reality anyways? When we think of ‘the thing’ that is real, it is usually just something that is occupying our minds for the time being. Like recently, I have been preoccupied by a series of classes that I am listening to by Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits. I found myself floating through realms of the mind that have really altered the way I not only feel about myself, but (in reality) exist. What is existence anyways? I know we all stop to ask such questions occasionally, however… did anyone ever receive any truly satisfactory answer?

My preoccupation all started when I was asked to identify ‘finite’. This is an idea that has been pondered by everyone from Abraham to Aristotle to Albert Einstein (and if you feel small being compared to these names, don’t worry because this is a question that we can all answer with the right level of prodding). Of course, in the podcast, the answer followed swiftly after the question. ‘Finite’ is defined ultimately as having edges or limitations. The world that we live in can be broken down into pieces and those pieces can be broken down to smaller pieces and so on and so forth, until you get to something that is really just energy. But I am getting ahead of myself. This finite relationship of something with edges or limitations, next to something else with the same properties goes on forever, however forever is the antithesis of finite and this would be impossible. Finite means that there is an end, with limitations, remember? So where did finite reality come from since not only is it inconceivable that there is an end but also that there was ever a beginning to a universe made purely of finite stuff.

Then I was asked to imagine infinity (with many warnings that this was only to find an analogy and not, heaven forbid, to imagine the infinite) and when I did so, I couldn’t get that stupid little symbol of the Mobius strip out of my head. That is a finite representation of infinity. This led me to the realization that there is really no way for us with our finite minds to understand infinity. We are ultimately finite in everything we do. We are limited. So, what do we do to solve the problem of how is it possible for existence to occur? Well, the Greeks said that there was something like simple matter (in Hebrew it is called Hayouli) that was finite and infinite at the same time. That was a good answer for them, but not for the Jews that had been contemplating this inconsistency since the time of Abraham. Really, the Greeks solution only introduced the same dilemma of the existence of finite reality and infinite reality into one element which just stated the problem over again.

The Jews, on the other hand, decided to take a different approach. If it was impossible for finite reality to exist without infinite reality, and since it is impossible for infinite reality to exist with finite reality since that would negate the whole idea of infinite, the Jews asked the question, “If you had to choose one of these two, albeit irrational, options as being more rational, which one would you choose; finite reality alongside infinite reality, or finite reality within infinite reality?”

Oooh! You see where I am going with this? (think about The Shma) So now let’s go back to the energy idea. What is the best analogy of subatomic energy in the world around us? I would have to say light. Rabbi Berkovits said that this might even be cheating because it is such a great example for us to see. What is light, a particle, a ray, a wave, or something else? Light exists in finite reality but doesn’t follow the rules of finite reality. When you want it to be a wave, it is. When you want just a particle, it is. How do we explain this you ask? Well, all I can say is that it has to be a clue to the infinite. Let’s go back to the idea of an analogy to the infinite. When you really think and dream about what would be the closest thing in our world, most people end up with a vision of something very thin, space, or vast emptiness… going forever. These ideas are the farthest thing from infinity. Infinity is everything, everyplace, every time, and forever. All this is going on exactly on top of itself and never ends. Infinity is thicker then we have the capacity to comprehend. We would completely loose ourselves within it if we were to even glimpse it for a moment. That is the closest analogy to the infinite that we can even conceive of (without major brain damage) and that is the only thing that can offer a rational solution to the problem of finite existence.

This is the ultimate question with regard to the meaning of life. Once we have progressed this far, we need to ask a very important question. WHY? Why are we here? If there is such a thing as infinite reality, which we know there has to be to explain the undeniable existence of finite reality then we really need to ask the next thing of ourselves. Tchuva… (Technically means return however is also translated as repentance)

Rosh Hashanah is in a couple of days. This is the time when we look inward and back at the past year. We try to become better people and open up to our faults and make goals to the coming year. So what have I found out about the meaning of life this year? Let’s just keep it simple… I found out that a path is only well worn when traveled, when traveling always be prepared for the next turn, and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how bright or dim. With that I will wish you all health, happiness, and good life for the year to come and I humbly ask forgiveness from anyone that I may have offended this past year.

Toda roba lechem ve gam,


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cowboy Up, Butthead!

Showing up for work a few weeks ago on Yom Rishon (day one or Sunday) was going to be a bad idea… so I didn’t. I called in sick and really, I was sick (mostly sick and tired though). You see, it was hot and muggy, I had had a particularly hard re-entry back to my life here in Israel, and we were slated to start to transfer tons of rat, cat, and scorpion infested exotic lumber that had been stored in the basement workshop, up the hill, around the building, and into a storage loft that was too short to stand up in. My stomach hurt so I called in sick.

On Yom Sheni (day two or Monday) I had hoped that they would be almost, if not totally, finished and upon arriving in the morning I found that… they waited for me. So, by the end of that week I was dirty, bruised, bleeding, sore, tired, frustrated, and really quite upset about the whole deal. It was time to get those doggies rolling and move on. I was ready to call it quits that day; however I spoke to a few friends and found that I just needed to get the ball rolling as far as the future. So that being, not necessarily said but, thought I got back to cleaning 50 years of crap up so that we could start to paint.

Somebody brought out some paint clothes and I noticed a little logo on one of the hats. When I looked closer, it was a picture of a little funny looking guy with really big cheeks and a cowboy hat on. The caption under the picture said… you guessed it; cowboy up, butthead. The German Christians had no idea what it was or what it said and were quite embarrassed about it after I told them. No one wore it after that and the last I saw, it was still sitting on the floor in a pile of other stuff.

All said and done, I think that the hat must have really been meant for me. It seamed that it was about time for me to cowboy up and stop farting around. I need to get my life going here in the Promised Land. So now that I am back to work as normal as it could possibly be here at the German, Zionist Christian, Gas Mask Making, Israeli Kibbutz, I am now moving in the general direction of something all together different…

So, cowboy up… butthead…
And Shavua tov too!