I have always been intrigued with Zeno’s paradoxes. Specifically, his Dichotomy paradox. As a mathematical concept it offers a glimpse into the world of infinity – an abstract concept of boundlessness – and by way of my own extrapolation: eternity – a reality outside of time, with no beginning and no end.
Yep, math is very cool*. People just don’t give it a chance.
We (I) tend to think of infinity as uncontained largeness, which it is, but Zeno’s paradox reveals another slice of that same infinity. Infinity as uncontained minuteness.
Mr. Zeno’s Dichotomy paradox simply stated says, Before an object can travel a given distance, it must travel half that distance then in order to travel that half distance, it must travel a quarter of that distance, etc. Since this sequence goes on forever, it therefore appears that the given distance cannot be traveled.
The way it was demonstrated to me back in the day was to stand a set distance from a wall, then take a step halfway towards that wall, then from that halfway point take another step halfway, and again until your nose is against that wall, but still some half of a half of an infinite half distance from that wall!
In this 21st century, I am a living example of Zeno’s paradox.
It seems I’m in a constant state of being ‘almost finished’ with various projects.
To be clear, I am not talking about confusing perfectionism with professionalism in the (he)artistic creation process. There is a time when something is truly done and learning to know when to stop ‘futzing’ with a project is part of that process.
What I am talking about is how my projects get ‘done, except for…’. Which then get ‘done except for’ something else then on and on until my nose is up against that wall and I’m staring down an infinite number of ‘except fors’.
Oh, I know that’s not truly a real-life application of Zeno’s paradox, but it sure feels like it. The infinity aspect of it certainly, but the frustration of projects never getting to the finish line – achingly acute.
Most of the time the ‘except fors’ are dependent upon some other factors that I cannot control which only adds discouragement to frustration.
Case in point, Mr. Zeno came to remembrance a couple months ago while I was ‘futzing’ with the liner notes for my upcoming Swimming with Swans: Goat Suite (Saga) cd (who knows anymore when it will be released :-().
I had all my ducks in a row – the artwork, layout, format chosen, and wav. files ready for replication, but there were just too many other obstacles asserting themselves, blocking the finish line. All ‘done, except for’ factors beyond my control – thus, hindering completion of the actual cd packaging and its release anytime soon.
But those liner notes, hey man, let me nit-pick/futz with those because I can control all of that.
In general, once I realize I’m in a Zeno’s infinite loop of frustration, I search for some other unfinished bits that can be readily completed if I take the time to focus on them. In my small multipurpose studio, such projects are easily seen and found.
In this instance, my eyes strayed away from the practice stool and computer screen to the three quilt blocks laid out on my flannel design wall. They are each from three different projects and have been on the periphery of my quilting focus. I decided long ago to sew them the way they were arranged, but just wasn’t motivated to finish them.
In the name of surviving yet another cycle of Zeno’s dichotomy, I took to completing them and packing them away for later use in their respective projects.
That felt good.
And then that positive completion experience refueled my determination to work on a different slice of the overall SwS project while the aforementioned slice(s) are on hold. I opened my NOTION score files of related Swimming with Swans music and resumed editing several of those music scores in preparation for future inclusion in the project’s accompanying Music Folio.
That feels even better! 🙂
*Just for fun:
The dichotomy paradox leads to the following mathematical joke. A mathematician, a physicist and an engineer were asked to answer the following question. A group of boys are lined up on one wall of a dance hall, and an equal number of girls are lined up on the opposite wall. Both groups are then instructed to advance toward each other by one quarter the distance separating them every ten seconds. When do they meet at the center of the dance hall? The mathematician said they would never actually meet because the series is infinite. The physicist said they would meet when time equals infinity. The engineer said that within one minute they would be close enough for all practical purposes.