Nothing Nowt Zero Nada
“Nor I nor any man that but man is
With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased
With being nothing”
― Shakespeare, Richard II
“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”
― Plato, The Republic
“We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all.”
How Much Nothing?
Here we appear to have at least three sorts of nothing (and you thought there was only one!). Well, perhaps there is only one nothing – a nothing in which all other nothings (and even some-things) are subsumed.
How far Shakespeare goes in exploring the nature of this substantially insubstantial in-substance I have yet to fully discover (in that undiscover'd country, from whose bourn no traveller returns?). But the word appears over and over again, not least in Richard II, who is plagued by usurpers and left with – yes, you guessed it – nothing.
For something (oh dear) so insubstantial, nothing has nevertheless caught the imagination of many philosophers over the ages, and typically caused no end (oh!) of controversy.
It has its place in mathematics and physics, revolutionising maths when its was finally recognised as a number, and popping up (how can nothing pop-up?) as the void, space and most intriguingly as quantum foam.
Really, the subject is far top complex for a bear of little brain, but fascinating none (urrgh!) the less.
Please see below some sources for further study of this paradoxical ‘ting.
Alan Watts discusses Nothing
8 Unsolvable Philosophical Questions - Solved!
The Annihilation of Nothing
Nothing remained: Nothing, the wanton name
That nightly I rehearsed till led away
To a dark sleep, or sleep that held one dream.
In this a huge contagious absence lay,
More space than space, over the cloud and slime,
Defined but by the encroachments of its sway.
Stripped to indifference at the turns of time,
Whose end I knew, I woke without desire,
And welcomed zero as a paradigm.
But now it breaks—images burst with fire
Into the quiet sphere where I have bided,
Showing the landscape holding yet entire:
The power that I envisaged, that presided
Ultimate in its abstract devastations,
Is merely change, the atoms it divided
Complete, in ignorance, new combinations.
Only an infinite finitude I see
In those peculiar lovely variations.
It is despair that nothing cannot be
Flares in the mind and leaves a smoky mark
Look upward. Neither firm nor free,
Purposeless matter hovers in the dark.
Nothing remains, when all is said and done;
so I’ll the empty mirror of the world,
a perfect O, a garland wreathe, sing feintly
praising all she leaves undone – cold sun of
Nothingness, blank harbinger of all the
oscillations of the vital sign, long
unflustered, lucid line of silence, non-
descript distinction, back you give us
all; you withhold nothing, giving without
taking from your store at all; and you
adore a vacuum, do not abhor
your lot… Be constant in your wanton way
Omphale, and with hollow vowels, I’ll rase
a locus from the wombstone of your praise!