To Infinity and Beyond!

Last week I noted how much I enjoyed the way the tale of Buluqiya tries to describe the almost-infinite, and to invoke a sense of the overwhelming scale of God’s power.

In a lecture, Jorge Luis Borges (discussed previously in relation to these tales) made a marvellous point about the title A Thousand and One Nights, which itself alludes to the eternal:

I want to pause over the title. It is one of the most beautiful in the world … I think it lies in the fact that for us, the word thousand is almost synonymous with infinite. To say a thousand nights is to say infinite nights, countless nights, endless nights. To say a thousand and one nights is to add one to infinity. Let us recall a curious English expression: instead of saying forever, they sometimes say forever and a day. A day has been added to forever. It is reminiscent of a line from Heine, written to a woman: “I will love you eternally and even after.”

— Jorge Luis Borges, Seven Nights (Faber and Faber, 1986), translated by Eliot Weinberger from Seite Noches (Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1980)

This kind of formulation pops up all over our culture. Buzz Lightyear has his ‘infinity and beyond’ catchphrase, and it is unsurprising to see variations in love songs, such as Christina Perri’s ‘Thousand Years’ (2011):

One step closer
I have died everyday waiting for you
Darling don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

Or The Waterboys’ ‘How Long Will I Love You?’ (1990)

How long will I love you?
As long as stars are above you
And longer if I can

More surprising, however, to see it in a politician’s speech:

We will remain friends until the end of days, and one day longer.

That’s EU President Donald Tusk, on the Union’s relationship with the United Kingdom, after Brexit.

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