Thursday, July 31, 2008

You never run out of the number seven

My guess is that it was October 24th of my sophomore year in college, some time after trying to call a friend for her birthday and discovering the number I dialed was incorrect. I called her mother in search of updated contact information.

Somehow this quick check-in with my friend's mom morphed into the kind of exchange that requires temporarily suspending your personal beliefs. Although I love these types of conversations and take most opportunities to engage in them, I was surprised by this conversation's development. But, even more surprising than its development was the profound impact it ended up having on me.


I have no idea how the topic came up, but my friend's mother spoke to me of her religion. She started off by stating that she believes most people interpret the whole bit about man being made in god's likeness backwards. Her point was followed up with some very human characteristics commonly attributed to him, such as jealousy and rage. In her opinion, god is omniscient and omnipresent, not bound by mass. He is infinite goodness, such as infinite peace, infinite kindness, infinite joy, and infinite love. I liked her definition of infinite:
"You can use it, but you can't use it up. Like the number 7."
She wrapped her logic all together in one neat bundle. "If man is made in god's likeness, wouldn't it stand to reason then, that man has an infinite capacity for peace, for kindness, for joy, and for love?"


I have a thing for thought experiments. When you take an idea or belief that's different from your own and try it on for size, you shift some of your framework around and shake things up a bit. Whatever is worth believing will settle in comfortably while whatever is tenuous or unnecessary will be dislodged and eventually flushed out.

I tried this thought on. To be honest, I didn't try on the whole thought as I was still a little too agnostic to be open to it all. Instead, I tried on the part about man having infinite capacity for all these positive things. As I turned the thought over and inspected it, I found myself taken with the idea. It made complete sense to me. Where in my body is the switch that says "Ooops! Too much love here! Gotta stop now."?

This little thought experiment led to self made mantras that helped me make it through college.
I have an infinite capacity for infinite capacity for infinite capacity for humility...
I'm almost embarrassed to admit how long that list of mantras got. Whatever virtue I needed, I imagined I had an infinite capacity for it and reminded myself that there was no physical limitation keeping me from achieving it. I endured countless all-nighters, ego-crushing problem sets, and assignments that seemed to require more than I had to offer with more grace than I could have mustered without this insight. Even now, on occasion, I find a mantra bubbling up inside of me when I need it. I guess you could say that, among other things, I have an infinite capacity for mantra creation.


Alda said...

great blogs

ViVi said...

Thank you for sharing that with me. I'm never out of 3's. ;)


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