Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Quotes About Nothing

There was neither existence nor non-existence then.
There was neither air nor sky beyond.
What stirred?
In whose protection?
Was there water, bottomlessly deep?

There was neither death nor immortality then.
There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day.
That One breathed, windless, by its own impulse.
Apart from that was nothing at all.

Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning;
with no distinguishing sign, all was chaos.
That which becomes was covered with emptiness
until that One arose through the power of heat.

Desire came upon that One in the beginning:
this was the first seed of mind.
Sages seeking in their heart with wisdom
found the bond between existence and non-existence.

Their cord was extended across.
Was there below?
Was there above?
There were seed-placers; there were mighty forces.
There was impulse beneath and there was giving forth above.

Who really knows?
Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced?
Whence is this creation?
The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?

Whence this creation has arisen
– perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not –
the One who looks down on it,
in the highest heaven, only He knows
…or perhaps He knows not.

The Rig Veda (Book 10, Hymn 129)

Upon Nothing

John Wilmot

Nothing, thou elder brother even to shade,
That hadst a being ere the world was made,
And (well fixed) art alone of ending not afraid.

Ere time and place were, time and place were not,
When primitive Nothing Something straight begot,
Then all proceeded from the great united—What?

Something, the general attribute of all,
Severed from thee, its sole original,
Into thy boundless self must undistinguished fall.

Yet Something did thy mighty power command,
And from thy fruitful emptiness’s hand,
Snatched men, beasts, birds, fire, air, and land.

Matter, the wickedest offspring of thy race,
By Form assisted, flew from thy embrace,
And rebel Light obscured thy reverend dusky face.

With Form and Matter, Time and Place did join,
Body, thy foe, with these did leagues combine
To spoil thy peaceful realm, and ruin all thy line.

But turncoat Time assists the foe in vain,
And, bribed by thee, assists thy short-lived reign,
And to thy hungry womb drives back thy slaves again.

Though mysteries are barred from laic eyes,
And the Divine alone with warrant pries
Into thy bosom, where thy truth in private lies,

Yet this of thee the wise may freely say,
Thou from the virtuous nothing takest away,
And to be part of thee the wicked wisely pray.

Great Negative, how vainly would the wise
Inquire, define, distinguish, teach, devise?
Didst thou not stand to point their dull philosophies.

Is, or is not, the two great ends of Fate,
And true or false, the subject of debate,
That perfects, or destroys, the vast designs of Fate,

When they have racked the politician’s breast,
Within thy bosom most securely rest,
And, when reduced to thee, are least unsafe and best.

But Nothing, why does Something still permit
That sacred monarchs should at council sit
With persons highly thought at best for nothing fit?

While weighty Something modestly abstains
From princes’ coffers, and from statesmen’s brains,
And Nothing there like stately Nothing reigns,

Nothing, who dwellest with fools in grave disguise,
For whom they reverend shapes and forms devise,
Lawn sleeves, and furs, and gowns, when they like thee look wise.

French truth, Dutch prowess, British policy,
Hibernian learning, Scotch civility,
Spaniard’s dispatch, Dane’s wit are mainly seen in thee.

The great man’s gratitude to his best friend,
King’s promises, whore’s vows, towards thee they bend,
Flow swiftly to thee, and in thee never end.


The absence of anything; non-existence. Nothing is not the same as the empty set, which exists as the set that mathematically denotes nothing, nor is it the same as zero, which exists as the number that denotes how many members the empty set contains. In physics, nothing is not a vacuum, because a vacuum not only contains energy but exists in space and time; nor is it a singularity, which contains a greatly deal of concentrated matter and energy. So, can there be nothing? No. "To be" implies existence of some sort: the one thing we can be absolutely sure has never existed or will exist is nothing.

The Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Astronomy, and Spaceflight: An Alphabetical Guide to the Living Universe

We start, then, with nothing, pure zero. But this is not the nothing of negation. For not means other than; other is merely a synonym of the ordinal numeral second. As such it implies a first, while the present pure zero is prior to every first. The nothing of negation is the nothing of death, which comes to, or after, everything. But this pure zero is the nothing of not having been born. There is no individual thing, no compulsion, outward nor inward, no law. It is the germinal nothing, in which the whole universe is involved or foreshadowed. As such, it is absolutely undefined and unlimited possibility -- boundless possibility. There is no compulsion and no law. It is boundless freedom.

Charles S. Peirce, "Logic of Events" (1898)

Nothing is the end as well as the beginning of all things.

Henry Fielding

This sense of my own weakness and emptiness comforts me. I feel myself a mere speck of dust lost in space, yet I am part of that endless grandeur which envelopes me. I could never see why that should be cause for despair, since there could very well be nothing at all behind the black curtain.

Gustave Flaubert

Nothingness is being and being nothingness....Our limited mind can not grasp or fathom this, for it joins infinity.

Azriel of Gerona

The only way one can speak of nothing is to speak of it as though it were something.

Samuel Beckett

The process of delving into the black abyss is to me the keenest form of fascination.

H.P. Lovecraft

Your mind is trying to make nothing into something. The moment you make it into something, you have missed it.

Eckhart Tolle

The experience of nothingness is not paralyzing--it is liberating. In its dark light, nothing is beyond questioning, sacred, immobile.

Michael Novak

Nothing contains all things. It is more precious than gold, without beginning and end, more joyous than the perception of bountiful light, more noble than the blood of kings, comparable to the heavens, higher than the stars, more powerful than a stroke of lightning, perfect and blessed in every way. Nothing always inspires...Nothing is everywhere.

Otto von Guericke

The hypothesis of absolute void contains nothing at all which terrifies me. I am ready to fling myself into the great black hole with perfect calm.

Gustave Flaubert

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