David Amerland
Nothing as a concept


I have a confession to make. Usually, each Sunday Read ever since that very first, truncated piece I wrote back on 13 October 2013 has been the result of many connections: thoughts and ideas, articles I’ve read, the sparks that have been struck by conversations I have had, the articles and videos that have been sent to me by the many people I connect with and talk to online.

Each piece then is co-creational in many ways. I put it together, sure, but it takes form through the attention and work of many others. It is not at all ironic that, the very first piece that appeared on the now defunct Google Plus is virtually unreadable despite its brevity. It too, relied heavily, on the connections we all made there and the information that flowed through it.

I digress however. The confession? This week I have come up blank. Usually the Sunday Read takes shape as I work from Monday to Friday with some pieces percolating maybe for weeks before they are ready to emerge. This means that I juggle maybe several in my head at anyone time. Circumstances usually make them coalesce. The data appearing as the moment dictates.

A little ‘Zen’ as this process may sound it is about to get even more mystical when I say that the week just past flew by in a total blur and, as a result, I came up empty. There were several high-pressure things I had to attend to, including a corporate presentation, that simply soaked up all my bandwidth.

Online, and offline, everyone else appeared distracted. Busy. I had maybe the fewest emails, links sent and conversations ever. So, here we are now. Staring not necessarily at a blank screen and no words but at a post that lacks its usual depth. Fewer links. No central concept. The overriding, though-provoking theme that makes the Sunday special, missing.

Yet, in this, there is a truth too. And a question. The truth first: The absence of something is more than nothing. As the song “Nothing” by Irish rock band The Script makes clear nothing is a state of mind that makes us aware of what we had before we became aware that we had had it.

The meaning of “Nothing” is something that’s been discussed in an attempt to define it. Quientin Morrison in his TEDx Talk suggests that nothing is always something. and musician Joseph Wooten suggests that “nothing” is also data in so much that the absence of data is a signal that is read and contains meaning. Not only that but it provides meaning to everything else around it which is kinda totally on-point with me as I talk a lot about semantic search, still.

So nothing is something. Right?

What’s the question then? Well, obviously: “How is it possible for us to read so much already about nothing?” That, is because nothing may not actually exist. The idea that there can be an empty world has been philosophically doubted since the 5th century BC.

Today physicists and philosophers spar over it still. With the former believing that they can manipulate it. “Nothing” may give us a chance for introspection. The opportunity to catch up with our thoughts. In Zen Buddhism this state of nothingness is called Mushin. a state of no-mind.

Contemplation that isn’t requires us thinking about not thinking and experiencing the moment when action becomes inaction. I’ve used words here to describe a state of being that’s hard to describe and it shows in the clumsiness of the construction.

No-mind has to be experienced. At least, however, it’s given us something to contemplate instead of nothing, which is what nothing appears to do when it comes to our attention.

So, I hope you’ve had time to do what you needed to do despite the craziness of the week, which means right now you’re looking at a steaming pot of freshly brewed coffee and a pile of donuts, cookies, croissants and some chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday wherever you are.

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