The Infinite Monkey Cage?

Heather Stewart

Faculty: Science and Engineering
School: Vision and Hearing Sciences
Course: BOptom (Hons) Optometry
Category: Vision and hearing sciences

12 March 2015

Question: If an infinite number of students are given an infinite number of exam papers, then at least one of them surely will get 100% right, right? Alternatively, if me, or you, yes you – if anyone reading this – gets given your final exam paper right now and an infinite amount of time to complete it, surely you will get 100% right?

Answer: Probably not, because even if you didn’t lose the will to live and die of boredom, your invigilator sure did.

I see different people in the corridors every single day on campus, and one thing is for certain – we are an infinitely diverse bunch (even if the canteen does rotate our dinner in a depressingly predictable manner). No matter how much we subdivide into clubs, cliques, societies, years, faculties and courses, we are all singular individuals with singular personalities, hopes and opinions about precisely what the minimum amount of revision is required to make it through an exam. As legal adults, we are technically free, yet we choose to bear the yoke and brand of student for more precious years of our life than we already have done, and return of our own free will to the same place each week, in the same city, sometimes gleefully, sometimes mournfully, always with the outward facing nonchalance that says, ‘Yeah I’m a student, I learn stuff and that but I don’t care really’, even if you do.

But the term ‘infinite cage’ is in itself, a paradox – how can something be infinite and still a cage, a term that implies restriction, barriers, even cruelty? The ARU walls are our cage, the syllabus our bars, the lecturers our keepers. It is our minds that are infinite – there is the infinite possibility, there is the ambition, the dreams – the dreams that stretch into dimensions beyond the infinite. Back to our original question: if we were given our final exams now and forever to answer, could we? Mathematically, statistically, yes, but in reality, no. We have this cage and these bars for a reason, they will train our minds for the years they are held there and when we are done, the cage door will open and then, only then, will we have the tools to reach for the infinite.


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