WHEN I lived in barren lands, folk used to say to me: "What has a godawful place like that got to offer anyone?" And I would reply: "Nothing."
I meant that it was devoid of clutter. All it had was sea and air and sky. Not exactly nothing but, ranging from the ethereal to the wet, it wasn't exactly substantial either. Of course, there were people in the barren land, and they are certainly something, tending as they do to ruin everything.
But I think I was on to something with this nothing. In my youth I used to get epistemological flashes when, suddenly, everything seemed to make sense. Usually, I was as epist as a newt but, all the same, these moments were always accompanied by the words: "Nothing really matters".
I've pondered this often. It could mean several things. I'm a terrible worrier, so it could be merely an injunction to chill. Less personally, it could mean that, ultimately, none of this matters. It's not that life is meaningless, just that the everyday issues obsessing us don't signify in the greater scheme of things.
Or it could be a motto or schema that fits the new physics, where nothing is real – no, really – and you don't want to go stepping into a black hole. Not in these shoes.
I Google everything now – medical cures, football scores, philosophy – but when I put in "nothing really matters" it produces nothing much beyond the title of a song by yon Madonnie. There is, however, The Book of Nothing, by John Barrow, which explains, according to a review, why there's "much ado about nothing" among scientists.
That sounds like something I ought to read, as I sit here amidst the sound and fury of the city. And what does sound and fury signify, readers? Exactly: nothing.
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