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Exploring Infinity Through the Prism of Love and Poetry || Talk for the WELLTTA Forum

WELLTTA stands for World English Language Learners, Teachers, and Trainers Association. The forum organizes two lectures every evening from 7PM to 8PM and 8PM to 9PM. Last week, I was fortunate to be invited to speak on a topic that is very close to my heart "Exploring Infinity Through the Prism of Love and Poetry". 

I divided the talk into four sections:

  • Infinity - The Great Humbling Reality
  • Surrender - The Total Perspective Vortex
  • Cosmic Infinity and Love
  • Blurring the Boundaries with Love

This concept of infinity as the great humbling reality is not a new one. We, as human beings, have one common fault – a massive ego. While the misconception that the Sun revolves around the Earth was dispelled centuries ago by Nicolaus Copernicus, almost all of us still believe that the Universe revolves around us. 

It was this ego that confused Arjun in Mahabharat, when he accorded undue importance to his emotions when fighting the people he loved. Lord Krishna revealed his Virat Roop to cure this condition. One glance at the universal form in which creation and destruction, angels and beasts, planets, stars, and all concepts tangible and abstract co-existed, was enough to shake Arjun out of his stupor. He realized that he was just one small entity in the larger scheme of things and his emotions and feelings were of no importance whatsoever. We all know how that ended.

I took a leaf out of this and explored the concept in my poem “Divine” from my book Loveflakes: Memories of Mirages:

DIVINE

You held me with your many hands
One caressing my cheek, another holding me close
One on the small of my back, yet another
moving my hair out of the way.
I am surprised to find myself alive after
witnessing your Virat Roop.
They say mere mortals cannot survive that.

Looking at contemporary literature, how can one not cite the example of the great Douglas Adams in this context. The Total Perspective Vortex, in his iconic satiric series The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, is a machine in which criminals who have been convicted of committing the most heinous of crimes are incarcerated. What this machine does is to expose the prisoner to the vastness of the Cosmos and the result is most often that the convict loses his mind.

One of my favorite poets, Tishani Doshi, writes in her poem "Zero or Infinity (Ramanujan)": 

There’s a place that poet’s seek
as real and fearsome as the body.
When I find this place
I will lie down in it,
and it will be like lying
in the stomach of Time –
the dark, pock-marked endlessness of it.
The man who knew infinity
will be there, too,
unravelling the mysteries of zero.
He knows what it means
to take away, yet keep things whole,
to give without diminishing.


Whenever we decide to surrender to something, it is a gamble. It requires real courage. It requires some amount of madness too. We know what is at stake, but we have hope that if it works in our favour, the rewards will be well worth it. And only with surrender can you really experience anything fully. And only when you experience something fully can you create something new. So Surrender is that terrible machine that exposes us to the infinity. It wakes us up to something new. That something new may make or break us. But that is a risk that one needs to take.

Poet Jo Harjo talks about this surrender in her poem “For Keeps”:

Sun makes the day new.
Tiny green plants emerge from earth.
Birds are singing the sky into place.
There is nowhere else I want to be but here.
I lean into the rhythm of your heart to see where it will take us.
We gallop into a warm, southern wind.
I link my legs to yours and we ride together,
Toward the ancient encampment of our relatives.

When it comes to surrender, there is nothing more terrifying than surrendering to love. When your brain and heart are at conflict, your life has taught you that surrender and trust will bring you pain, you still listen to your feelings, you give in. You take the plunge. You may drown or you may survive. The most scary part is that when you take the plunge, you know that it can go either ways, and you know that nothing lasts forever, and all those cliches. And yet you dive in.

Here’s my poem “We are Homogenous” on this surrender:

WE ARE HOMOGENEOUS

That day when we first held hands, I felt our souls merge.
That moment was infinite. We were infinite.
Whenever we are apart, that infinity embraces me.
I still feel your hand in mine. I still find your soul in me.


When you are in the state of surrender, you start observing synchronicities. You equate the heartbeat of your lover with 7.83 Hz (rumored to be the heartbeat of the Earth). The Heartbeats of your beloved would never lie to you. Just like the Earth never lies. The Earth is truth. Everything around us is the truth, except the illusions created inside our brains by our minds. I have a poem about this in Loveflakes. It is titled 7.83 Hz and I have always hoped that someone would ask me the story behind the title of the poem.

7.83 Hz

I have listened to your heartbeat. There is
nothing else I need to hear. There can be no greater truth. 

Somehow most of us retreat to the comfort and the primordial familiarity of the Universe when threatened with losing our selves to the cruelties of love. Gulzar does it, as does D.J. Irvine in "Tears of Salt":

Her tears filled up the universe
leaving behind puddles of salt
that can now be seen as meteors –
speeding through space
between galactical faults. 

You compare your relationship with your beloved to that of a comet with the Sun. Like I do in this extended metaphor in the prose poetry “Gravity”:

GRAVITY

Years ago, I wandered into an orbit around you.
I began each revolution fearing that it may be my last.
Because when I am out there, at the far edge
of your solar system, I feel your pull slacken.
I find myself wondering whether I am necessary to your world.
If I choose to slink off, would you know that I am gone?
There are bands of maverick comets wrecking a havoc in the Universe.
I glance at them and continue my orbit. I want to see you one last
time.
This time may be, you will tell me that you’ve missed me too. 


Once you are exposed to the infinity. Once you have been through the Total Perspective Vortex. Once you come to recognize the stardust that you, as well as the farthest stars, are made of, the question that you are up against is where do things end, where do they begin. What makes us so different from the still Earth beneath our feet when the building blocks are the same. What makes your mind one with that of the one you love? How do you know what your beloved is thinking? How do you get intuitions, premonitions? If you are not one, then how?

Poet Gwendolyn Brooks outlines this beautifully in her poem “To be in Love”:

To be in love
Is to touch with a lighter hand.
In yourself you stretch, you are well.
You look at things
Through his eyes.
A cardinal is red.
A sky is blue.
Suddenly you know he knows too.
He is not there but
You know you are tasting together
The winter, or a light spring weather.
His hand to take your hand is overmuch.
Too much to bear.
You cannot look in his eyes
Because your pulse must not say
What must not be said.

The merging or the blurring of boundaries can be a seamless process that you do not even realize is happening. Or it can be a turbulent, painful act that you go through with because you really crave the aftermath. But when two infinites merge, the result is still infinite. This is ancient wisdom :

पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदम् पूर्णात् पूर्णमुदच्यते |
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ||

Which means

Om! That is infinite (Man), and this (universe) is infinite.
The infinite proceeds from the infinite.
(Then) taking the infinitude from the infinite (universe),
It remains as the infinite (Brahman) alone.

I conclude with my poem “Estuary” on this merging to two infinites:

ESTUARY

Let’s meet tomorrow. 
You bring your calm. I’ll get my chaos.
I might ruffle your surface a bit, but
your calm will triumph. My chaos will be calmed.
This is ancient wisdom. Who am I to argue with it?  


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