I’m back with more thoughts on this vast topic! As discussed in Measured and Immeasurability Part I, birth, death, and human life may be measured in many ways. The paradox is that ultimately, all are immeasurable. Even stillborn children or babies who live only a few hours, days, months, or years, have a lifetime of impact on their parents and family. Sometimes even on the world. Smiles, kindness, and service given during a lifetime are truly immeasurable to the countless receivers. When I think of the pebble dropped from a cliff, into a pond, and the ripple effects that touch every single grain of sand, blade of grass, insect, fish, or muddy sludge at the bottom, there is no measure, just as those effects of our own lives have on the people and pets at hand, as well as the world.
Even the Lord, in all His might, majesty, and omnipotence, frequently uses the scriptural terms sands of the seas and stars of the sky with reference to the immeasurable. Other adjectives accompany those Biblical similes, such as innumerable, numerous, numberless, multiplying, multitudes, overflow. Many other verses suggest things that cannot be numbered or measured as well. I would add countless to the list.
With all of the seemingly countless needs for measuring and accuracy in constructing buildings, bridges, space stations, and other miniscule and gargantuan projects, can our emotional reactions be measured. I think not, as we feel the grandeur of a temple or cathedral, the immensity of the Great Wall of China, or the graceful beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge. In the raw power of a steam powered train, a sleek schooner, or jumbo jet takeoff, we not only enjoy that immediate rush in indescribable ways but remember other places and experiences where our sense of awe was engaged in similar unmeasurable ways.
Services provided through finite calculations and procedures of dental and healthcare personnel, can create or restore immeasurable quality of life for those who have been healed, given the ability to chew their food, or smile unashamed. As we hug and influence grandchildren, comfort a friend, or keep on giving to the world, the results are usually unmeasured. Each unique person, and even pet, touch other in their own innumerable ways.
The deliciousness of a great meal shared with friends or eaten at a special hideaway during travel tingles the senses enough to never be forgotten. That vivid memory can spur a passion to attempt intriguing recipes, entertain more often, or travel with renewed childlike curiosity. Thus, we share and touch more lives among family, friends, and strangers, in unnumbered ways.
What about listening to a symphony, the song of a bird, or a lone guitarist on a busy corner? When my friend’s parents invited me to a duo piano team as a young girl, that performance literally changed my life. My great-grandmother saw that her children were educated in music as my grandmothers passed on to their children and to us and now us to our children. How different the world would be for all of those touched by the music just my family has shared. Gramma Best played for years in the nursing homes, Nana taught her grade school students to sing harmony, I’ve played harp at the sweet bedsides of people leaving the earth, and have participated in great choral performances that touched all of us singing and hopefully audiences too. Our children have done the same and still do. Even the focus and challenge of practicing music brings order and purpose to our brains and lives in countless ways.
None of us can measure benefits in the quality and experiences of life through use of transportation, which seems pretty straightforward and finite at first glance. Whether it be reconnecting with family and friends at a distance, simply commuting to jobs every day to sustain ourselves and our families, or making incredible discoveries and adventures around the globe, our life views are widely enlarged memories shared through transportation.
Even though I’m no passionate sports fan, I can feel the thrill of a pass well executed and a receiver’s brutal rush to the goal. My grandfather’s hole-in-one that none of us even witnessed, is still a topic of dinnertime conversation decades after his death. Our joy for him and memory of his other competitive endeavors in ping pong, pool, bowling, and card playing will keep that man alive for little ones who didn’t have the opportunity to meet him. Immeasurable again.
One of my time-sensitive daughters who is often focused on productivity and outcomes, sees questionable value in spending nearly 100 hours to knit or crochet an afghan, I love doing it. The calm and time for pondering during that activity brings peace to my soul (unless it is a naughty pattern causing me grief) and a sense of creativity and completion that I seem to yearn. My own afghan, sweaters, doilies, and tablecloth, handmade by my grandmothers, help keep their memory alive in my life, and feel like hugs from heaven as I still used them today.
My friend, Sally, has always been a dog lover. She still talks of her former companions whose special relationships still bring her joy. Even now, her quirky black and white Cocker Spaniel now has stolen her heart immeasurably. She recently tried to explain to me the indescribable love that he has in his eyes as he looks at her.
In Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Miserable, he ponders philosophical questions on this topic of immeasurability in great depth for a couple of pages. Wow, if you want more details just message me. I will share just a few of his quotes here. “Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has the grander view?” “Elements and principles are mingled, combined, espoused, multiplied one by another to such a degree as to bring the material world and the moral world into the same light.” “In the vast cosmical changes, the universal life comes and goes in unknown quantities, rolling all in the invisible mystery … sowing an animalcule here, crumbling a star there … a dizzying mechanism, hanging the flight of an insect upon the movement of the earth … the evolutions of the comet … to the circling of the infusoria in the drop of water.” “The ant and the eagle, should come to a poor little Parisian garden with as much … majesty as in a virgin forest of the New World.”
I realize that Hugo gets a bit heavy at times, but I actually just LOVE his thoughts beyond our common daily concerns. I love his noticing of the world around him, the science and nature in every breath, and as us fans know, his complete exploration into the depths of human souls. This brings me to another point. In Les Miserable Hugo’s characters represent the gamut of human experiences. They represent the archetypes of good and evil, rich and poor, and meekness and oppression, which speaks to the ever present, everlasting reality of opposition.
Just as there is opposition in all things, yin and yang, positive and negative, there are some difficult experiences that are immeasurable too. Our dear friend is grieving his sweet wife, another is experiencing an unexpected and earth-shattering break-up. This morning my good friend’s mother passed away after a lengthy and painful bout with cancer. Not only can those experiencing suffering, not measure it (even though medical people try to get you to describe pain somewhere in a 1-10 range), but those of us watching can’t ever really feel exactly what they are feeling, even though we seek to be empathetic and helpful.
In all of this, I have a gratitude for all things measurable and immeasurable. I know that even the most painful trials spring us into growth we didn’t see as possible. Our losses of family and friends help us treasure those around us today. Our suffering gives us more compassion for others. Our inconveniences give us gratitude when things flow smoothly. Just this list could become endless.
In closing, at this time of year when Thanksgiving is on our minds and we celebrate the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ, I can’t measure my gratitude. As I watch the sunrise in the mornings, see winter birds pecking at seeds, and have shelter, food, and comfort, I rejoice. I am so thankful for a family who raised me with great faith in the Lord, and my knowledge that all of creation is a gift for us. One of my greatest prayers is that I will be able to notice the needs around me and do something to help. I want to improve my kindness and minimize my inconsiderateness. When I do leave this earth, I would like to do so, having made a difference that in some way could be lasting, and yes, immeasurable.
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!