Take Nothing. Hold it up. Turn it in your hand. Have a good, long stare.
Nothing, in spite of its bad press, is really quite something – especially when compared to the alternatives. So many of the things that press around us filling our time and space are so bland and pointless that emptiness becomes a refuge. Emptiness at least has the virtue of being true while so many of the things that promise to fill us up are imposters.
Nothing, in the end, is a thing like any other. Nothing is a tangible state of vacuity through which one floats with differing degrees of desperation or exaltation. Nothing can be a void but it can also be a verdant metropolis. It can be the splendid awareness of one’s being both a significant and insignificant part of the whole, neither greater nor lesser than any other part.
Let’s face it: Behind everything lies a great, palpable nothingness – call it God if you like – against which all our busybodying is put in sharp relief.
But to call nothing “nothing” is a colossal bit of mischief for it is anything but. Real treasure lies in our awareness of the nothingness that surrounds us and our part in it. To make peace with the void, to admit its calming beauty, to savor its silence, to bask in its airy light in a world overwhelmed by doing is to break free. The voluptuousness of nothing is the last forbidden pleasure.
It does not matter how it is that you get there – through contemplation, prayer, long walks or mediation – the point is to get there, somehow.
Moments of nothingness are times of great happiness for me. When the pressures of the world are pushed back until they cease to exist and what is simply is again, I can at last glimpse the folly on which much of my life is predicated. Only then can I have a good laugh at myself and that’s never a bad thing. Surely, taking oneself too seriously is the height of folly.
Milton famously said that we were made for contemplation and valor. I’d say contemplation is the real valor.