Living Like an Asymptote
By Rakesh K Mittal IAS on 13-09-2014
The word ‘asymptote’ may appear strange to many, particularly to those who have not studied higher mathematics. Though the word finds a place in all English dictionaries, I feel it needs an explanation. To understand ‘asymptote’, one has to understand certain mathematical terms. First the term ‘curve’ is to be understood. It is a geometrical figure following a defined relationship in its two coordinates, a simple example of a curve being a circle. The second term to be understood is ‘tangent’. It is a line which meets the curve only at one point. Normally a line intersects a curve at two or more points depending upon the shape of the curve, but when it intersects or meets only at one point, the same line becomes a tangent. We have two types of curves. Some have a finite size while the others are infinite in size. The examples of finite size curves are a circle, an ellipse, etc., and the examples of infinite size curves are parabola, hyperbola, etc. Both types of curves have tangents. In fact, each point on the curve can have a tangent and these tangents follow certain mathematical rules.
Of course, there are no such rules for lines which are not tangents. Having understood this, the term ‘asymptote’ can also be explained. An ‘asymptote’ is a line which is just like a tangent but is not a tangent. This is so because the point of contact between an asymptote and the curve is at infinity. At infinity, the curve and the tangent merge into each other. Only a curve of infinite size can have an ‘asymptote’. It is quite difficult to grasp the concept of contact at infinity as it is only creation of theimagination. ‘Asymptotes’ also follow certain mathematical laws. I studied this concept about thirty years back and it fascinated me greatly. Generally, students found it too difficult to grasp, but those who understood its concept, found it easy. I shall now relate the concept of tangent and asymptote with life in order to make it easy and interesting. The world we live in is like a limited size curve. A person living a worldly life is like a line which is a non-tangent. He has no rules to guide him and follows the path which suits him at a particular point of time. In other words, he lives a directionlesslife, resulting in frequent intersection with the worldly curve which may be compared to the clashes or conflicts he comes across in his worldly life. The answer to this lies in living a properly directed life so that life becomes a tangent to the world. It means that the contact with the world is reduced to just a point. Such a person has very few clashes or conflicts with the world and leads a smooth life with the right direction. Tangents at various points means that it is possible to live smoothly, if one wishes to.
Having achieved this stage, one can switch on to a higher state of living. For this, one has to enlarge one’s vision to infinity. This is like shifting to infinite curves, from limited or finite curves. While one can draw tangents on each point here, an asymptote can also be drawn on such curves, meaning that while the line goes along the curve, it does not touch it at all, at least in the finite dimension. In terms of living, it is like living a life above the world. However, this is possible only when we have our visionfocused on infinity and is not possible in the case of finite vision. In such a state, there is no clash with the world and one can be above it while living in it. It is like the movement of a hovercraft which is above the water despite being in it. A comparison can also be drawn with the meeting or merger of an asymptote with the curve. As said earlier, this is possible at the infinite only. In terms of living it means that the ultimate aim of life is to achieve divinity, that is, to merge with the infinity. However, this is not possible as long as we identify ourselves only with the body and remain limited in our vision. As the bodily sense reduces, the vision gets widened. If the physical consciousness goes completely, the vision becomes infinite and a complete merger which is possible only after the body is gone, takes place. It is then like meeting or merging of an asymptote with the curve at infinite distance. This is, perhaps, the ultimate aim of living. The Creator or God can be compared with an infinite curve. Let us try to become its asymptote so that all along we are with it, and the gap narrows as we go through the path of life and ultimately merge into it when the body is totally gone.
About The Author
Sri Rakesh Kumar Mittal IAS (Retd.) had been an administrative officer in Uttar Pradesh state cadre for about 35 years. He is a spiritual man with high moral values and a selfless heart. He has founded 'Kabir Peace Mission'. He has also written several books on positive thinking.