So I’ve decided to become an expert on nothing. Admittedly I think I may already be an expert on nothing—it seems like it would be pretty easy to have absolute mastery of nothing, but the more I think about it the more I think maybe I’ve just skimmed the surface of nothing and that there’s a lot more to it that I could really look into. There’s already a long history of nothing that goes back much further than the sixties when kids were told to tune in, turn off, drop out, drop in, switch off, switch on, and explode, although the most famous event in the history of nothing might be the 31st of September, 1873, a day when absolutely nothing happened, and the people who experienced it have no idea how lucky they were. Or maybe they did and didn’t make a note of it.
More recent developments in the field of nothing include sensory deprivation tanks which I’ve heard described as being sort of like what Hamlet called the undiscovered country, except you get to come back, which makes me think there must be something to nothing. Admittedly I’ve never tried the sensory deprivation experience and that description makes me even more afraid of it than I was before. Whenever I’m surrounded by nothing my brain tends to fill it up with something and sometimes that something can be pretty terrifying. When I was a kid I was afraid of the dark because when all the lights were out all I could see was nothing and the dark is a pretty good place for something to hide, which reminds me of the joke about the guy who wants to talk to the burglar who broke into his house. “You’ll get your chance in court,” the police tell him, but the guy says, “He got in without waking up my wife and I need to know how because I’ve been trying to do that for years!”
I also think caves are really cool and have a fun time going to them but every time I’ve ever been in a cave there’s been a point where the tour guide has said, “Now we’re going to turn off all the lights so you can see just how dark it is inside a cave.” And I never want to see that. In fact I never do see it, or anything else, and most of the time it freaks me out so much I close my eyes but somehow that makes it even worse.
It seems like the deeper I get into nothingness the more there is to it. There are whole days when, no matter how much I work, I get nothing done. Lots and lots of nothing. Not that it’s anything new. Everything was once nothing. Between the blissful nothingness of Buddhism, reached through meditative enlightenment and the unnerving nothingness of the existential void and chaos what is there? And it occurs to me that at least half of Jean Paul Sartre’s philosophical magnum opus L’Être et le néant is about nothing, or at least I think it is–I haven’t read any of it.