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Being in nothingness

December 8th, 2011

It is a giving time of the year. I’m sure that among the many thoughts rushing through your minds, the question of what you want or what you should get someone else for Christmas or Hanukkah has been prevalent.

In a conversation I was having on this subject last week, the topic of appreciation came up. Some do not appreciate the subtleties of an item that give it quality. For instance, many would call a $12,000 Savile Row-made suit “overpriced” or “a waste of money” without appreciating the fact that it was made entirely by hand of the best cloth in the world, specifically for the person who bought it.

The sturdiness and character of an 80-year-old iron skillet still in use today might not be valued by those on Fairmount Boulevard with their brand new, non-stick, stainless steel sauté pans.

While I’m a practitioner of admiring intricate products, their quality and longevity, the ability to do so is only a superficial reflection of one’s morals of industry, not their creativity or intellectual capabilities. Instead of appreciating something, I find the capacity to appreciate nothing much more versatile and respectable.

Appreciating nothing isn’t disrespect and dissatisfaction for everything but rather contentedness despite the absence of things. This is not limited to material items, however.

Some might call this approach to life “minimalism.” I’d argue that it is better termed “necessitism.”

In George Carlin’s famous stand-up routine “Stuff” he notes, “That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house.” There is freedom in nothingness. There is nothing you are obliged to carry around, no worry of forgetting anything.

In my running experience, the most enlightening feeling has come from the realization that my body is capable of quite a bit with very little or no equipment or sustenance. The best endurance athletic performances have come from athletes who can clear their minds from all conceptions of fatigue or weakness. There is empowerment in nothingness.

I’m sure that many  have experienced the pleasure and productivity that comes with that almost blank state of extreme focus in which one can just crank out quality papers and tasks, one after the other. Though constant psychological nothingness is bad (because that’s a sure sign of being in a vegetative state or, perhaps, death) the focal nothingness is pure creative intellect, stripped of all societal impediments and pressures.

Everyone always wonders what  special ability the geniuses of the past had that enabled them to be such revolutionaries? I find that these people all were probably able to rid their minds of the handicaps of conventional thought. To be frank, many of the major intellectual, mathematical, literary and artistic figures in history used alcohol, opium or other mind altering substances. It is likely that these removed them from reality and allowed the full capabilities of their brains to be released.

A state of nothingness can enhance abilities. Possibly the best feeling of nothingness comes with the appreciation of things that haven’t been screwed up. With nothingness, things are allowed to flourish in their natural state. There is purity in nothingness.

When I’m living in a small wigwam of my own construction on the side of a forgotten mountain, without a job, money, or even other people, I’ll be content. I will find solace in my ability to survive on only the necessities and being resourceful enough to obtain them with only my own cunning. And if I go mad or my assets perish, perhaps I will too.

But it will be without the heartbroken mourners, without the hopeful Bible readings and without a steel box to separate me from the raw processes of nature that, in their simplicity, have continued the cycle of life successfully since the genesis of all life.