Nothing Comes to Mind


I hate it when this happens.  Here I have a blog posting deadline (albeit self-imposed) and I can’t think of anything substantial or worthwhile to write about; nothing at all comes to mind.  This happens to me from time to time and I’ve learned the best thing I can do to overcome is just to write, even if it is about nothing.

I realize the dangers, as Hilaire Belloc did, of writing about nothing.  First, of course, you run afoul of journalists, politicians, college professors and other members of the intelligentsia who prize writing and saying everything on the topic of nothing as their own, sacrosanct, domain.  I think they fear any amateur who might try it and make it look easy.  You also risk, a much greater risk IMHO, being confused with them and thought one of them by the uninitiated.  The idea sends frightful quivers down my leg, to be sure.

But, as I ponder the matter, I realize, nothing is a serious and difficult topic.  It’s practically the religion of our age.  Isn’t it the received dogma now that our universe and all that’s in it came from nothing?  Don’t the great minds of science say that everything we can see and feel and touch came from nothing and that anything we can’t see and feel and measure isn’t real?  Hard to get more serious than that.

Yet, as I sit here writing about nothing I wonder about the things we can’t see and feel and touch.  What about love and compassion and virtue?  Those things are nothing, not subject to scientific study and exact measurement.  What about joy?  What about God?

These nothings, immeasurable but somehow real, are considered personal and subjective and, therefore, unreal, by the great thinkers of our day.  They only see things that can be studied and written about in great detail in scientific papers and peer reviewed journals as “real”.  Reality seems to require a lot of hard work.

I wonder if the things most real to us are the things we don’t go looking for and writing about, trying to fit them into some preconceived idea of reality.  To know love and compassion and to live a virtuous life we don’t study the work of some great biologist or physicist, we know them by doing nothing but being receptive, waiting expectantly.  Great joy isn’t to be found in great activity but in sitting still.  Most of us know we don’t find God in the earthquakes and firestorms of our lives.  My own experience, shared by many people, I think, is that God is found in quiet times; when nothing in particular is going on is when he most often lets us sense his presence.  In times like these, we’re most likely to hear the, still, small voice; our deepest moments are found in nothing.

Hilaire Belloc wrote, “Nothing is the reward of good men who alone can pretend to taste it in long easy sleep, it is the meditation of the wise and the charm of happy dreamers.”  Maybe next time I have nothing to write about I won’t be so upset.

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