I have always been intrigued by the concept of infinity, and by the different ways it can be defined. On the one hand, it can describe numbers going on forever, in either the positive or negative direction, getting infinitely bigger or smaller. On the other hand, it can describe the numbers between two values, such as the numbers that lie between one and two (for example, 1.01, 1.1, 1.5, 1.9, etc.) These two different concepts are both referred to as “infinity,” as it would be impossible to list every value without being able to come up with yet another value that would also meet these criteria. I thought of this concept recently as I left an end of the year meeting at Ursuline, only to run into faculty members who were heading off to the airport and to places all over the globe. On that bright, sunny day, their next few months took on an infinite quality of being without bounds. I, however, looked forward to a summer in Cleveland, Ohio, and for a second, I felt like I was missing out on a lot.
There was a fellow faculty member headed to Belize, another to Scotland and still another to China. My fellow full-time math professor is going to Turkey, while my co-author was headed to Uganda. Such travel is not in the cards for me, at least at this point in my life. However, before I began to feel left out of things, I realized that while I was not traveling the world and experiencing infinite possibilities that way, I would be experiencing infinity in other ways. For, while I would not leave the United States this summer, the next few months will certainly take me to some exciting places, if only with the help of books and a computer keyboard.
This summer, I plan on re-writing my notes for one upper division math theory class, which I am sure will be both fun and a challenge, as it is one of the classes that I teach that does not include math that I use on a daily basis as an economist. I will be working on a committee that is revising the core curriculum, and at the same time, my co-author and I have plans to finish three papers, two of which are already in draft form, and one of which will require some intensive work and hopefully lead to a research agenda that could be the basis for a future sabbatical leave. In addition, I hope to make progress on a book I started writing several years ago. Originally focused on the question of what it really means to say that someone has a “disability”, it has evolved into a mystery that spans the twentieth century. As I write it, I will not be traveling around the globe, but will be, in a sense, traveling in time. Last summer I wrote enough to pass the 40,000 word mark that defines it as a novel. This summer, I hope to turn it into something I can be proud of that people would want to read.
Of course, although I am not traveling to any warm climates, there will be wonderful sunny days at the public pools in our town. I will spend time splashing with my daughter, soaking in the sunshine and the relaxation. It was not all that long ago that I did not know if such days would ever be found in my future, and I work to make sure I savor every one of them with her. Days of exploring the infinity that is part of relationships, such as those between me and my family, will follow as the summer unfolds. Alas, there will be sad times that I will spend with my parents and my sister’s family, as we gather again for a summer vacation that this time will be missing a very important person. Again, I recall the idea of infinity, and hold fast to the belief that she is enjoying a life that began here but continues into infinity.
And so, fellow readers, where do you plan on going this summer?