Thursday, 15 November 2012

Infinity- The Sky's Not the Limit

The sky's the limit. Such is a cliche that dares to be challenged. From the very breadths of the natural numbers to the measure of human stupidity, the notion of infinity seems simultaneously intoxicating and hair-raising. With paradoxes, anomalies and incongruities lurking round every avenue and boulevard of its grandeur, it remains feared and revered, not as a stream of digits but as a reality in itself. Infinity denotes the antithesis of the finite, the extension of the boundary and the never ending twist to the tale; a metaphorical and mathematical playground most thinking people discover for themselves. Just imagine a hotel with an infinite number of rooms and an infinite number of guests, if an additional guest arrives, the existing guests must shift into the next room to accomodate him. Which represents one of the great paradoxes of the world of infinity, infinite sets are in fact proper subsets of themselves. But what if a second set of infinite guests arrived? The existing guests must shift into the room with double the value of theirs. And what if all of the guests but one left in the evening? It seems that infinity minus infinity can be anything you like. And when comparing two infinite sets, just like in the hotel allegory, they are both the same size even though one set appears to contain half as many numbers. Indeed this represents quite a mouthful for a reality that stretches minds beyond imaginable reach. Thinking diagonally about infinity, we arrive at an intriguing impasse; the infinity of the decimal numbers is bigger than that of the counting numbers. But beyond the puzzles and counter-intuitives, the realm of infinity seems under fire by the theory of a finite number scheme; one where the eccentricities of  infinity are dispelled by an ultra-finitism of a biggest number. Indeed, if there was a biggest number, the 'add one' doctrine would land you right where you begun, at zero. Such a seemingly natural, elegant and lucid idea is purely questionable, quite comparable to dividing by zero in elementary algebra. But regardless of the whether there are finite of infinite sets of googols, googlepexes or even googolplexians; there seems a natural necessity for an infinity. Despite the absence of a physical, tangible or natural expression of infinity in the grand scheme of things, such is a conceptual metaphorical and mathematical truth, rather than an illusionary mirage of the mind. Born via an innate human impulse to go above and beyond any frontier and bred by the loops and twirls of its bewilderment and perplexity. One, two skip a few; to infinity and beyond

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Chinese Philosophy- A Slice of the Orient

From the ancient temples of the Middle Kingdom to the epoch of the modern era, it has echoed the cry of nature and infused the spirit of its forefathers. Neither reducing nature nor augmenting it, rather assuming a synchronous synthesis of harmony and balance. A balance that flows with fluidity, akin to the water trickling down a stream; analogous to the bamboo rod that bends yet reverts. A grand scheme of things that pursues the metaphorical over the analytical and the relative over the absolute. It is the definitive unity of the macrocosm and the microcosm, a universal endeavour bound by a timeless and unparalleled cultural phenomenon. Chinese philosophy offers an incredibly poignant, intrinsic and soulful approach to the metaphysical and beyond; compounded with its lucidity and countless oriental flavours. Subsuming the cosmos into the five elements, Wu Xing, it pursues a cyclic order from rudimentary processes; for fire cools into the earth, which condenses into metal, which melts into liquid, which takes shape into wood, which kindles into fire. Chinese philosophy is a constant yearning for polarity, taking the Wu Xing and forming a partition between its Sheng and Ko, construction and control, dimensions. But the sheer genesis, the underlying reality remains the Dao, the revered yet unknown way of the universe; for the Dao creates the universe yet it is not separate and although one may name it, one has not found it. Such an inexplicable transcendence proves the answer to the occidental equivalent of metaphysics, as well as the very pathway by which the lifeblood of the cosmos circulates and permeates, Qi. The envisaging of Qi as energy focal point, the vibration and the trigger behind matter and energy, it is philosophical and mystical reality recognised not by what it is but rather by what it does.  Elaborating on the yearning for polarity, the Chinese tradition recognises a reality substantial to the world and lives and minds, the great tension between opposite forces, the mutual duality of Yin and Yang. Such a duality is one that is viewed as neither two nor one, is envisioned as both static and moving as well as the annihilation of the absolute. Such is contrasting face to the occidental view of the Yin and Yang as polarities of good and evil, rather one should observe the Yin becoming the Yang and vice versa. The Chinese philosophical tradition forms a unique junction between mind and matter, between thought and the somatic half of things. Outlining the various channels and meridians by which Qi is conveyed through, as dictated by the strive for balance of Yin and Yang, as governed by the elemental unity of the Wu Xing and directed by the will of the Dao. A grand philosophical tapestry, woven in it the fabric of sagacity and the appeal towards nature as the grand teacher and master; the avoidance of absoluteness and a thoroughgoing shift from the occidental tradition.