About nothing

f3ef1dae7ebfcca387f0272e1dd138d0_numbers20clipart200-number-zero-clip-art_187-227For reasons that will become apparent, I’m contemplating the idea of emptiness at the moment. And perhaps something more empty than emptiness, more absolute than mere negation, more devoid of anything and everything than just void.

What I’m talking about is perhaps what the Jewish theologian Richard Rubenstein refers to as Holy Nothingness, the infinite God, which can be in no sense a thing such that it might resemble the finite things of this universe. This conception of God would reject even such understandings, found in say, Tillich and Aquinas, of the Divine as ‘being itself’. Rather, it makes Him out to be, if anything, infinite potential, ultimate non-being. So, as Rubenstein explains, the very absence of anything, makes for ‘an indivisible plenum so rich that all existence derives from his very essence. God as the nothing is not absence of being but superfluity of being.’(1)

For the next four weeks I’m going to explore some ideas around nothingness, absence, lacunae, silence. So, watch this (empty) space.

三十輻,共一轂,當其無,有車之用。埏埴以為器,當其無,有器之用。鑿戶牖以為室,當其無,有室之用。故有之以為利,無之以為用。

Thirty spokes

Share one hub.

Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the cart. Knead clay in order to make a vessel. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the vessel. Cut out doors and windows in order to make a room. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the room.

Thus what we gain is Something, yet it is by virtue of Nothing that this can be put to use.

Lao Tzu (551-479 BCE) Tao Te Ching, trans. D.C. Lau (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963).

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