Many thanks to Sarah at http://ventquest.wordpress.com/ for this gem:
To me, the number system is like human life.
First you have the natural numbers, the ones that are whole and positive,
like the numbers of a small child.
But human consciousness expands, and the child discovers longing. Do you
know the mathematical expression for longing? Negative numbers. The
formalization of the feeling that you're missing something.
Then the child discovers the in-between space between stones, between
people, between numbers, and that produces fractions.
But it's like a kind of madness, because it doesn't even stop there. It
never stops. There are numbers that we can't even begin to comprehend.
Mathematics is a vast, open landscape. You head towards the horizon that
is always receding... like Greenland. And that's... that's what I can't
Miss Smilla's Sense of Snow