Subject:Infinity ......... a sideways look
Scene: University lecture room, the professor is informally addressing a small group of students...
Prof: "Ladies and Gentlemen, ..... this morning we shall be discussing Infinity ... what is Infinity?"
Student: "Something that goes on forever in both directions."
Prof :"In a linear sense yes ... but, to be more precise, Infinity goes beyond the Universe in all (emphasises) directions ... in all directions ... up and down, forwards and back, in and out, before and after ... so let's draw some parameters shall we ... what is the largest thing we know about?"
Student: "The Universe."
Prof: "Yes, the largest thing we know about is the Universe (writes on chalkboard) The Universe = All known things so, where does it stop?"
Student: "It doesn't, it goes on forever."
Prof :"... but how can that be? The Universe is everything we know, it stops at the boundary of our knowledge ... beyond that expanding boundary lies ... what?"
Student: "Nothing?"
Prof :"Let's move on .. now, what is the smallest thing we know about? A nanosecond?......
Student (aside): "....... your dick."
Prof :"Yes, the smallest known thing in the Universe is my dick, my pulchritudinous penis, Parsons, the inner boundary of our physical Universe ... and beyond that inner boundary? Darkness again?

......'before we see in darkness more, discover daylight's hidden store.' Infinity,'s a word that skids off the brain. What we need is a sense of perspective. We live in a finite world, a baby is born and an old man dies, a garden wall, a mountain range, a river or coastline. Everything we know (emphasises) has a beginning and an end ....

..... It is our nature to feel safe within our boundaries, but it is also our nature to venture beyond them. So, we need a perspective to Infinity, a sideways glance, or a raised view, order to see what is beyond us. Are you with me, so far?"

Students (snoring noises): "Snore, snore."
Prof :" Good, now will you please focus all of your attention on this glass, which I'm filling with some overpriced mineral water ... what do you see?"
Student: "Bubbles."
Prof :"Effervescence ... the bubbles form, how do they do that? ...(scratches his head, looks puzzled) ... the bubbles form in the bottom of the glass. After a moment, you will notice, they detach themselves and rise to the surface, where they burst, ... go pop.
...the field trip, ... it won't take long, about 200 million years, we should be back for opening time, or thereabouts.

The purpose of this trip is to gather some understanding of the importance of perspective, and what better than a practical demonstration? Eh? (hopeful look) In this instance, to give a little shape to the shapeless, some time to the timeless, life to the lifeless (loud yawns and pig grunts from the students) and (said with quiet venom) maybe (pointedly) even a little hope to the hopeless.

Please, we shall look again at the bubbles as they form .... the bottom of the glass. When our mind is clear and our concentration is focussed, we shall select one bubble as it takes shape and go into it, before separation and ascent. A moment to collect our thoughts...."

 The students easily merge with their master, and their collective thoughts are centred on the inner base of the glass. A new bubble forms in the target area ... now (music) they enter ... into, darkness, then .. a blinding explosion. Separation takes place, the dawn of Creation, the big bang ...

.... Total darkness, but a feeling of rushing, almost hurtling, at incredible speed. Then some faint lights, flashing by, never nearer and gone in a blink.


The movement slows and they enter a galaxy, aim at one sun and (music swells) come into a solar system. They go directly to one satellite and, (descent music) slowing even more, pass through the atmosphere to settle gently (we hear strains of Thomas Tallis - Greensleeves) on to a daisy speckled lawn where a seated woman in a summer dress is pouring a bottle of mineral water into a glass, whilst talking to her friend...

......Prof. and his students materialise and stand around the startled women ....

Prof : (sings) "My name's Professor Pig, I'm gonna be something big in mathematics,..."
Students: (join in)"Hogwash, uh, huh (etc)..."

(Music, 'Hogwash') .... as they focus on the base of the glass, de-materialise and vanish into a bubble where they repeat the previous journey to the music of 'Hogwash'. This time the journey ends in 'Birantis (where the beer is all for free) and there is much evidence of sparkling liquid being poured.

Prof. and his students 'appear' (music fades) they sit on the lawn.

Prof :"It would seem, wouldn't it not, that there is more to Infinity than meets the eye? So, let's go back to our original question ... what is Infinity?
Student: "We don't know."
Prof :"Correct! We grasp the simple concept and we fully understand that there is no such geometry as 'parallel lines' ... beyond the end of our street, that is.

Second question ... what's the largest thing we know about?"

Student: "Infinity."
Prof :"Excellent .. a paradox, this.

The Universe is the largest thing we know about, and yet ... we know that Infinity exceeds our knowledge, our understanding and probably our imagination for the time being.

The finite nature of our existence gives us a steady grasp of 'beginnings and endings', but not much else.

We have just asked, what happened before the beginning? Any ideas?

Student: "Someone poured some mineral water?"
Student: "Spilled some beer?"
Prof :"Well, we can guess there was a catalyst, it's a reasonable assumption. A 'big bang they say, don't they ... and, late on, after the 'big pop', what happens then......?
Student: "That's it the absolute end, finito!"
Prof :"What, just like the absolute beginning? .... let's imagine a viscous membrane around our 'Universe'; giving it a finite boundary like a bubble that we mustn't burst, our survival depends on it. Our humanity, is these funny little vehicles we call bodies ... our finite mortality, the whole human, and porkan (modestly) story.

We come and go in a squigasecond during that womb-like bubble's, rising, ever expanding journey from big bang ... ....(puts finger in side of mouth and makes the noise) ... 'Pop!' (pause)

We'll be gone, long before the end ... unless, of course, we choose to mutate ...

Student: (mutate? sarcastic oohs and aahs)

"Mutate, sir?"

Prof :"Yes laddie, mutate (background de-materialises {music} re-forms to lecture room) ... mutate. Unless you see our sole function as becoming fertiliser, think a little higher.

From a caterpillar to a butterfly, if only for a few dazzling moments, to fly ... to fly, unencumbered...

(The Prof. gets dreamy ... eyed for a moment, then...)

"Hmmmph, right, well that's enough for now, (Prof. pulls a half-hunter from his waistcoat pocket, flicks it open)

I promised I'd get you back for opening time ... Parsons, you're buying the first round, mine's a large one! (under breath) you little prick."

This extract from 'Cherkazoo' is subject to all the usual copyrights.

© Ian Gillan 1997