Zip, zero, nada, whatever version you choose nothing can be a very useful tool. I’ve been stumbling across nothing my whole life. Early on I realized that it might be prudent to take some time to explore nothing and see if I could, possibly, wrap my head around it. To me, it seemed that if I could improve my comprehension
of nothing then I could, hopefully, make nothing work to my advantage.
As, a young child, I first learned of nothing from my mother, the Queen of Nothing. When I’d pitch a fit and she’d determined that the only thing wrong with me was my attitude, she’d just stop, give me some space and do, well, nothing. Devoid of an audience or any other kind of fuel, my fire was promptly extinguished. Much to my betterment, my mother clearly knew her way around more than one kind of vacuum. Mom the miracle worker. She also taught me, the hard way of course, never to devalue nothing. I recall coming to her once, as she was cleaning, and whined “Mom, there’s nothing to do.” Indelibly etched in my mind is her immediate and unadulterated response to my announcement. She promptly and unsympathetically, slapped a dust cloth in my hand as she spontaneously, and to my consternation, quite brilliantly, transformed into the Queen of Something.
As I grew older, I could sit for hours reading or listening to stories. Fortunately for me, my aunt was a great storyteller. She had a clever mind, a keen eye for detail, and a unique mastery of the dramatic pause. When she’d guide my cousins and I through one of her amazing tales carefully leading us along the most mesmerizing and circuitous route, we were all hopelessly enthralled. Then, when we were all spellbound, out of nowhere, with the precision of a swiss watch, she’d stop, take a deep drag from her cigarette and slowly, ever so slowly, blow out a great puff of smoke which would swirl like a great cloud above that perfectly chiseled chasm of silence. That swiss watch would tick, tick, tick as we teetered on the edge of that great void anxiously awaiting the appearance of a rope tossed from the other side. Who knew that nothing could be so tantalizing.
As a young adult wading through a design class, plying my way through what should have been a simple negative space project, I found myself in the deep end. I was hopelessly lost and drowning. While I understood the concept of negative space intellectually, I was banging my head against the wall trying to execute it artistically. In a moment of frustration, I took that flotsam of paper cut-outs in my hands, threw it in the air, and sank to the floor in despair. As the papers drifted and touched down on the white tile around me, the light bulb went on. I saw it. I saw nothing in all its glorious beauty. There in the midst of chaos, as my focus shifted from the debris to that ever evolving expanse of white, I found myself swimming freely in a pool of nothing.
Older still, I continued to find myself regularly blindsided by, well, any of the vast array of destructive forces at life’s command. To stave off life’s onslaught, or perhaps simply to take some much-needed time to gain some perspective, it became my practice to meditate. I tried, of course, to maintain a set time for meditation, but when I couldn’t, I adapted. I didn’t beat myself up. I knew there were more than enough people and circumstances in the world willing to do that for me. I simply took the time when I could, wherever it fell, even if it was only that ten minutes saved fast forwarding through commercials, to sit quietly and allow my mind to still. Not that the endlessly, chattering monkey mind is easy to still, but, every now and again, it would and I’d fall into that elusive gap where I’d hear nothing–no coulda, no woulda, no shoulda simply and mercifully nothing.
Every day I try to remain open to receiving all those random, awesome and golden new nuggets of naught. Whether they’re examples of how to do nothing, how to speak nothing, how to see nothing or how to hear nothing, I try to pay attention. I do this because I’ve found that, surprisingly, nothing can be my friend. Nothing can make everything better. And the best part is, by design, it doesn’t take up much room in your toolbox.