In what should have felt like a claustrophobic box, I saw infinity.

Yesterday I went to the Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Hirshorn Museum, and the traveling exhibit has quickly become one of the hottest tickets nationally.

I’d seen images of the exhibit before and was ready to enter the large rooms of overwhelming space, only to learn that it is all an illusion. Angled mirrors and lights create a mesmerizing space that seemingly has no end. You’re only granted access to the closet-sized room with one or two other people at a time for 20-30 seconds, and just like that, infinity disappears.

Kusama says much of the inspiration from the installations comes from her experiences with neurotic thought patterns and hallucinations, and the rooms visually translate her obsession with infinity.

But with such growing awareness of the importance of mindfulness and being focused in the present moment, why do we still crave infinity, towards the idea of being limitless, or of a never-ending future?

It puts things into perspective. It humbles us. As much as we find empowerment through knowing, there’s somehow more power in accepting the unknown. It may be part of some people’s lives more than others, as through religion or spirituality or in careers or lifestyles that are conducive to creative thinking and innovation.

Infinity can be overwhelming, even debilitating, or, if you approach it with a sense of wonder and a willingness to explore the unknown, it can be enlightening.