January 28, 2006

I just finished reading an extremely hard-to-find book titled “Nothing.” It’s a compilation of art works and essays edited together for the purposes of travelling art exhibition around the turn of the century. It’s main purpose was to describe, in so many ways, nothingness, absence, invisibility, disappearance, the void, the lack of value.. etc. It is an intriguing book to say the least but it doesn’t hesitate to point out the fundamental flawed logic of trying to create “something from nothing.” In fact, one of the essays by Pierre Bismuth is titled “Never believe an artist who says their work is about nothing: the culture consumer’s fear of hte void.”

You’ve got to keep in mind and handle several things when you are talking about “nothingness.” For philosophers, or actually anyone who understands and abides by the rules of argumentation have to force themselves to agree to use a few logical fallacies and weasel wording in order to actually use the concept of nothing properly in a discussion. Mainly, the fallacy of reification, which is the fallacy of treating an abstract idea as if it actually exists. In this case, as if you could stand in a room of “nothing.” But nothing doesn’t exist. It can’t. Or maybe, if current science has anything to say about the universe.. “nothing” is the most abudant “thing” in it. That is to say, there is more nothing than there is something in the universe. Planets constantly drifting away from each other, black holes popping all over the place sucking every something into itself, everything being hundreds of thousands of millions of billions lightyears away from one another.

What’s interesting is in how many different places the concept of “nothing” forces itself into existence in order to validate the existence of “something.” The ancient mathematician Zeno gave the Greeks the paradox of infinite regression forcing two things to be accepted, infinity and zero. Nishida Kitaro blended the Western and Eastern philosophies with the Kyoto school, creating an additive mixture of the two powerful schools of thought and wrote several books on “The Logic of Nothing.” The West was immensely concerned with every philosophical concept while the East was wrestling with Zen and Enlightenment. The experimental artist John Cage ushered in silence into music with 4’33. And I am reading more and more newstories about children who suffer from a frightening nerve disorder which makes them invulnerable to touch and pain; they feel nothing.
I can’t even begin to say how much I love the linguistic problems when talking about nothing. For example, my anthropology teacher asked me what book I was reading, and I had to reply honestly “Nothing.” I almost offended him before I showed him that it was the actual title of the book.

What’s the best part about the book? That pages 150 to 158 are missing and I know exactly why. And by the time you finish this post, you should know by now too.


4 Responses to “Nothing.”

  1. sis said

    You can do it!

  2. paintist said

    oh, “nothing is impossible.” It’s a phrase which sums up why I can’t do it and it’s also the phrase people use to motivate people.


  3. iamsamiam said

    Now there’s something.

    I’m completely blown away by your articulate manner. It’s wonderful! I could really give two expletives about my own blog, but finally I’ve found one worth reading. Thanks.

    BTW, that last bit wasn’t so honest. I love contributing to my blog, though I treat it less like a blog and more like a wishing well, if that makes sense.

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