A nothing is a dreadful thing to hold onto.
– Edna O’Brien, Irish Novelist
Often in life, when we want something, we get nothing. And then we search more and more, and still get nothing. So rather than exhausting energies in the search of something, why not enjoy nothing? I mean this: Tolerate nothing, even give it a chance. Perhaps something good will come out of nothing. But if we do not give nothing a chance, and become impatient, and search more and more for something, and still get nothing, we can become unhappy. We begin to think: “Okay, I’ve really got to find something, this cannot go on. I’ve got to find something. I need something. And then, only then, I will be able to be happy.”
But why seek? What is wrong with nothing? After all, without nothing, something would not be possible. So the more nothing we have, perhaps the more something we’ll be able to have. Nothing makes something possible. That is why something can be so awesome. Because it is against the background of nothing. Just as darkness makes light possible. Or, said differently, just as darkness supports lightness, nothing supports something. In a sense, nothing is like the ground on which something can stand.
The Silence of Nothing
The same goes for silence, which when nothing speaks, when nothing makes no sound. We often do not like silence. This is demonstrated on an elevator ride up to your office, and if there are some strangers in the elevator, and no one is talking, things invariably begin to feel weird. We would like to say something, but it feels like it will not fit in, so we tolerate the silence as everybody else does–although it feels weird, even a bit tense. And when it’s time to get off the elevator, it’s somehow a relief.
Nothing is good. It’s possible to appreciate nothing. It’s possible to cultivate patience to tolerate nothing. If I know nothing about something, it’s not bad. It means there’s an opportunity there to learn something new. So knowing nothing is actually very good. If one takes a small moment to appreciate knowing nothing about something, this can create peace with that state of knowing nothing or, in other words, that state of not-knowing. This state can actually feel quite stable. One can be very well rooted in a state of not-knowing. And the state of not-knowing will then allow one to more easily absorb incoming knowledge.
So if you do not know something about something, just acknowledge this. Your acknowledgement can transform your state of not-knowing into an initial state of knowing, which will be about knowing that you do not know. Or knowing that you are in a state of not-knowing. With that knowledge, that awareness, you’ll be able to be very tolerant of your not-knowing state, and you’ll even be willing to rest in that state of not-knowing, because you’ll feel that is the most honest and closest thing to you. Or, even, it is you. So when I do not know something, I am not-knowing. I am knowing that I am not-knowing about Knowledge X.
Nothing: A Gateway to New Ways of Thinking
Sometimes, if not often, we may prefer to have something rather than nothing. So we perhaps cling to the first of somethings that comes along. Well, we reckon, it’s better than nothing! At least, we have something! Finally! Okay, I know it’s not the best, but it’s better than nothing. And moreover, the deadline is next week, so we really needed to find something. And, next thing you know, it’s a few weeks later and all around people are saying: What the heck is this?! Who found that?! This something is no good, dude? We got to find something better before the end of the week. In other words, other people are really not happy with that something. We need to find something better? Here goes a second round of searching … As the search moves on the days go by, as the days go by the new deadline approaches, and after having gone through various “somethings” none of them being awesome but at least not being nothing, a new something is chosen. Perhaps it’s not the ideal one, the best one, but it’s something, hey!
Ah yeah, it’s better than nothing. And we really needed to find something. Okay, at least we got something, and let’s hope this will work! But this could just go on and on. Perhaps, the new somethings will get better with time. But if each time one enters a cycle of search for something, one enters it with the same reluctance and intolerance towards nothing, then chances are that the quality of each something will not be much better than the previous. Why? Because it is lacking depth! A metaphor would be useful here.
Imagine you are a diver in search of precious original sea shells. Also imagine the sea in which you are searching as having various levels. The most bottom one, the deepest is nothing. And each other less deep level are a “something” level, on which something can be found. If you are really looking for something great and cannot find it on one of the “something” levels, then you’ll need to dive deep, to the very bottom where nothing sits. By doing so you’ll be able to survey each layer, each level, all the way down to the deepest one, which is the “nothing” level.
And if that something you are looking for is still not there, well, perhaps you need to go to another sea. The point is that in order to do an honest rigorous exploration when searching for something, then nothing must be appreciated.