The Infinite Personality
A Preface to Dance With
I thought the adjective ‘infinite’ would be preferable to ‘finite,” since who would want to have a finite, average, or o.k. personality? A few cynics and oppositionals would prefer embracing the mediocre in their righteous battle against the elites. Clearly, they have a defensible point in trying to liberate the submissive finite from the hegemonic infinite. However, my selection of the word ‘infinite’ was not to demean the finite but to constructively focus on the infinite possibilities inherent in any finite person or manifestation. In this manner, finiteness was conceived like clothing or skin and infinite as transformative potential.
For instance, within the finite time, materials, and structure of a challenge in Project Runway, participants are encouraged to express their infinite potentialities in design. Those who play it safe and stay within finite confines of the materials attain nothing original but produce boring or crass garments. Those who totally ignore the finite reality of their materials generate egocentric garments that elicit outrage or ridicule. The outlandish forms of the egocentric possess few or no mooring to the actual material and so cannot be sustained by the reality of the materials. Winners, in contrast, embrace the finite boundaries and limitations of the materials not with resignation but with the joyful exuberance of infinite possibilities, immersing the material into their depthless creativities, and thereby transforming the finite material into something wonderfully beautiful or desirable but still respectful of the materials limitations.
We are afraid of the infinite because we fear it may lead to anarchy or chaos. But this fear of the infinite has little reality to it. Most experiences of the infinite are so limited by our biology, genetics, cultural norms, sub-cultural expectations, established knowledge, past traumas and triumphs, social connections, etc., that what is probable or even mildly improbable in an infinite encounter is vastly reduced by our limitations.
What we should be afraid of is the finite—the banal, repetitive, predictable, boring, stuck, mechanical, joyless, flat, neurotic life. Most people are plagued by feelings of no confidence, no power, little support, hopelessness, helplessness, and meager resources. Most people are not burdened or immobilized by over abundance or infinite possibilities, although they may hope for or dream of them. Beneath the traumas, wounds, belittlings, and mental torture that we all endure, resides an infinite personality that can be released as its love and creativity are realized.
The reality of existence offers expanding relationships and connections in a universe of limitless possibilities. We are most secure, when we are most connected to each other and to all of existence. In contrast, we are most insecure, defensive, hostile, fearful, and least adaptive when we constrict and reduce our infinite relationships and connections to a finite set of certainties. For example, the person who has only one understanding of the world is much less adaptable to changes in that world than a person who has myriad understandings. The person who constrains him or herself to one central relationship, is less adaptable when that relationship changes. The terrible tragedies of singular perspectives and certainties have been repeated over and over again in history, most recently exemplified in the debacles of Vietnam and Iraq. The psychopathologies that plague humankind—depression, anxiety, addiction, sociopathy, misogyny, homophobia, and narcissism, to mention a few—are based on illusionary certainties and finite beliefs and relationships.
The candy and good feelings we urgently search for are found in the multiplicity of our relationships. Love, the feeling we most desire, is always an expansive experience that connects us more with others, the universe, and our selves. When we love, we are open to our incompleteness, uncertainties, and so the infinite nature of existence. The absence of love—hate–is always a contraction and a lessening of connections. When we hate, we shut our selves down, oversimplify existence, and become less adaptable. All forms of certainty involve hate; all forms of relating involve love.
Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah. If it were only that simple!
We are not angels or saints, sinless, unconditionally loving or absolutely open. Humans are not infinite. We are not gods or immortals. Prophets and idealists have preached love for thousands of years and yet love does not govern our world; the contrary does. Why can’t we accept the facts that humans are complex and contradictory in their emotions and behaviors—loving and hateful, forgiving and intolerant, assertive and rageful? In the extreme, the infinitely loving personality is an oppressive ideal that no person in the smallest way can approximate.
Although we bath in the infinite and are continuously affected by the infinite, our decisions and action are vastly constrained by our finitude—our inescapable corporeality, limited knowledge, and established personalities. We revel in our pleasures, many of which are intertwined with pain and suffering. Our light is not just shadowed by the dark but feeds on the dark and vice versa the dark feeds on the light. No doubt, there can be a more constructive balance and interaction between the infinite and finite that leads to greater peace, joy, creativity, and profound aliveness. But there are no easy or idealistic answers. When we engage in idealistic answers, we oppress more and generate more suffering.
In the darkest recesses of the mind, in the places we fear to go, in potentialities we cannot yet understand, lie the most creative, insightful, energizing, and revolutionary of thoughts, visions, feelings, and actions. Every new light comes out of the dark. To be brilliant and creative we must have the capacity to destabilize the established, challenge the cherished, and negatively react to injustice and stupidity. These capacities have a downside. Because they are potentially negative and destructive, they can be easily harnessed for personal gain and grandiose purposes. For example, some of our most successful and visionary male politicians and leaders in the 20th century were womanizers, e.g., U.S. presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy.
But don’t be bummed out by this last example. Positive and uplifting examples of light emerging from the dark are ample. Here are some of my favorites: From the darkness of WWII emerged a United States that would champion freedom and democracy throughout the world; from the destroyed cities of Germany after WW II emerged a Germany that transcended its ignoble heritage; from the despair of the Great Depression arose a vibrant U.S. economy.