Writing about absolutely nothing

By Dawn De Busk

BN Columnist

Since the humdrums of humid heat have taken grip of the outdoor air, I seek my comfort in the quiet cool of the early morning, or the nighttime relief that arrives around midnight.

Anyhow, I had hoped the coolness at these times of day would re-oxygenate my brain. But, it has yet to do anything constructive. Perhaps, I am still recovering from the month of July that flew past in the time it takes for fireworks to ignite in the night sky.

So, for this August edition of The Bridgton News because I lack a better self-assignment, I will attempt to write about nothing.

This column may cross the lines of time and space, but I promise next time we’ll return to earth. Certainly — with potential topics like the dog days of summer, last-minute August camp outs, and mad-dash school shopping — soon again the muses will knock on my head and ask if anyone is home.

Until then, here goes nothing.

My intention was — and still is — to make the suggestion that nothing must exist because it is the opposite of something. Everything I observe in the universe demonstrates the logic of this. How could the lush green of grass and the sunlit sandy creek and the jet blue damselflies exist? How could all of those somethings exist if nothing was not in existence as well?

We know there is daytime because night plays polarity to it. We know the warmth of summer because of the cold, white of winter. We see death and decay in opposition of rebirth and growth. Therefore, by the logic of the universe, which is full of matter and somethingness, nothing must exist.

And, this does not cancel out God.

He cannot be left out of the conversation about nothing. In fact, He has a deeper comprehension of it than I ever will.

(Before we go in that direction, I am reminded of words from a great writer who hails from New England. Walt Whitman advised men to refrain from arguing about politics or religion. This column could go against his recommendations. Whitman’s advice — which included tipping one’s hat to all people — was most likely given for the benefit of not starting fights, and keeping things civil in polite society. I believe I will not offend anyone by bringing the Bible and God into this conversation.)

Like faith, I accept the existence of nothing — even though I cannot prove it.

Actually, when I Googled nothing, I was surprised to see how much had been written in the name of nothing.  According to scores of theologians, philosophers, scientists, linguists and mathematicians, nothing is a topic worth exploring.

At the crux of the argument seems to be the question of whether or not nothing can even exist. Many early scholars have theorized that it is impossible for nothing to exist.

Frequently, the Bible is called upon to try to answer the question — since in the Garden of Eden, God tells Adam that He brought the universe into existence from nothing. God calls Himself the beginning and the end.

For centuries the accepted theory was that nothing, or not being, could not be. Around the fifth century B.C., the Greek philosopher Parmenides believed that the act of discussing nothing was impossible because how could one talk about something that is not being.

During that same time period, another man named Leucippus, who studied atoms and matter, declared that motion cannot exist without the void on the other side. Like atoms that are attracted to one another, and also repelled from one another — a void occurs in the space between those atoms. Therefore, based on the study of atoms, Leucippus surmised that nothing, or the void, is able to exist.

Later, Aristotle disagreed with the definition of void. The space between things was a receptacle he said. Therefore, nothing was actually something because it acted like a conduit.

A thousand years passed before Johannes Scotus Eriugena (John the Scot) turned nothing into a bad or evil thing. He visited the concept of God being all and having no opposite. Therefore, God is simultaneously something and nothing. Both the void, and the birth of the Universe are encompassed by God.

Another thousand years went by. Georg Hegel applied logic to religion. I am not certain if I understand German logic; but, according to Wikipedia, Hegel’s belief was that nothing and something could not be separated. Both had to be examined as part of the whole truth.

Hegel said, “The Absolute is pure being. The Absolute is nothing. The Absolute is becoming.”

I could subscribe to that theory. It sounds familiar and acceptable.

However, my brain had a much easier time digesting the Eastern philosophy, which defines nothing as that moment when the mind is cleared of everything except for what is being done at the moment. For example, nothingness occurs for a person when they are completely engrossed in an activity. It could be swimming against the current, yard work, attempting to aim an arrow at a stationary target, or that first bite of a favorite sandwich on fresh soft bread, or that last spoonful of ice cream that cannot be savored beyond its melting point.

To achieve nothing, the mind clears itself of busy thoughts, and the past, and the future.

An uncluttered mind — that’s the version of nothing I’d like to get my hands around.

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