Comparisons are odious. Being compared with infinity however is perhaps the least offensive of comparisons. Everything finite falls short. The necessary democracy in this is consoling. Everything comes to an end, therefore coming to an end is not a singling-out.
Were everyone to walk with an exaggerated stoop as do I, thought the elderly man, glancing warily at his image in the reflecting glass of a streetlit shopwindow, it would be far less melancholy a thing, this slow, stooped walking.
Imperfect, said the melancholy pedestrian to himself, now that is not such a bad thing to be, either. Limited, yes, everyone has their limits. Who set those limits no one knows, they simply exist. Each of us was made to proceed just so far, and no farther. And then stop.
Were one to have time on one's hands, one might amuse oneself imagining a scale of being stretching from infinity to nothing, the bent, aged person mused.
Infinity being unimaginable, one would necessarily begin one's rankings at a point much closer to nothing than to infinity, and then work down, filling in the gaps.
One might picture all existence as a sort of conical structure. At the basis of the cone there would exist that nothing which is located at an infinite distance from the body of the person doing the picturing. In between there would be an infinite series of indefinite existences, the whole thing spinning continuously like a top. The sound of this spinning would be a deep hum worried at intervals by a high-pitched squeak.
Aye, it was that agitated treble-range bit that troubled our walker not a little, as, each step an ordeal, he loitered along.
His thoughts meanwhile tumbled forward unabated, like things of unequal sizes and weights suddenly let to fall through a floor that contained a trap door, hidden until now.
He went on picturing the universe as a spinning cone composed of everything.
Toward the lower range of existences at the base of the continuously whirring cone, he decided, one would expect to exhaust all those existences with positive qualities and enter the region of those existences of which there is nothing good to be said.
This region would be extensive, well-nigh boundless, yet each degraded existence encountered in it would have at least one redeeming feature: a superiority to nothing. For that reason alone each of these existences might be expected to be wearing a smile upon its face.
Trouble however loomed.
The stooped old man negotiated the perilous crosswalk as though it were the straits separating a grainy, amorphous past from a bright, vivid present. Pain and shocks cut through the waters between, fins hooked and alert. Beyond lay the future, indeterminate, blurred, filled with confusing illumination in strange, unsettling hues, crisscrossed by fluid shadows, phantoms that might be passersby, bobbing along as though riding small waves on ancient, worm-eroded surfboards.
To the meanings in things we are unequal in our meditations. To the things themselves however we are equal and more.
Nor does it end there, alas, thought the increasingly weary walker, waiting for the light to change.
For there are also to be considered the great empty spaces beneath the base of the cone, he thought, the infinite vacuities, pretending to be a foundation, on which this cone, or existence, spins.
Those whom this spinning sickens, who walk stooped and melancholy past its cold bright shopwindows knowing they can no longer stand the pace, and seek only the shade, may find it, though whether this will help remains in question, it occurred to him.