Alphabet Blogging Challenge Day 14
It’s day 14 of my September blogging challenge
The letter is N
and the word is NOTHING
We all know what the word ‘nothing’ means, but let’s consult the dictionary anyway. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines nothing as No thing, not anything, nought. Difficult to write a post about then, but the word ‘nothing’ is more complex than that.
The concept of ‘nothing’ has intrigued philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, linguists for centuries. Can there possibly be a state of nothingness? Can human beings imagine a void of nothingness?
Nothing comes from nothing (ex nihilo nihil fit) is a philosophical expression of a thesis first argued by Parmenides. It is associated with ancient Greek cosmology, such as presented not just in the work of Homer and Hesiod, but also in virtually every philosophical system – there is no time interval in which a world didn’t exist, since it couldn’t be created ex nihilo in the first place. The Greeks also believed that things cannot disappear into nothing, just as they can’t be created from nothing, but if they ceased to exist, they transform into some other form of being. Today the idea is associated with the laws of mass and energy.
The word ‘nothing’ runs through Shakespeare’s plays. Perhaps its most famous use is when King Lear says to his daughter Cordelia, ‘Nothing will come of nothing.’ He means if she remains silent and fails to declare how much she loves him, she will receive nothing. In fact, the play goes on to demonstrate that although she continues to say nothing, something – a huge tragedy – does arise from ‘nothing’. There other examples where the word does indeed mean something – Hamlet: nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so; Antony and Cleopatra: And there is nothing left remarkable/Beneath the visiting moon; Midsummer Night’s Dream: The form of things unknown, the poet’s pen?Turns them into shapes, and gives to airy nothing/A local habitation and a name. And it’s worth remembering that in Shakespeare’s time, the word ‘nothing’ had a sexual connotation!
One of my reasons for picking the subject for this post (besides tangling myself in knots with the complexities of the concept), is that ‘nothing’ often seems to feature in a writer’s psyche. ‘I’ve written nothing,’ we say. ‘I’ve done nothing for weeks.’ We fear the blank page, the expanse of whiteness that reflects so distinctly our lack of words. I think it was Rolf Harris who said ‘You have to kill the white.’
And from the point of view of writing, I think it’s true that ‘nothing will come from nothing’. If the page persists in remaining blank, we are left with only regret or guilt, a sense of failure, or possibly most crushing of all, the death of our dreams.
We have to kill the white. We have to write ‘something’, no matter how futile, rubbishy, or banal our words might seem. Because once they are down on the page, once there is ‘something’ to work with, the possibility of all sorts of gold emerges.
If you want to write, you have to get words on the page; you have to put ‘something’ down. ‘Nothing’ is not an option!