Making Something out of Nothing

The other morning I was walking across the footbridge at Dowling Hall and noticed the beautiful sunrise after a snowy day.

Sunrise

Breaks the ice

Birds chirping

 

 This week was encapsulated by nothing. Not the absence of any cohesive structure, but actually nothing. At first I was skeptical of how nothing (無) could be something to be desired. Professor Inouye talked about how noh actors, like those in Atsumori, try to gain hana, whereby they spellbind their audiences without moving (Lecture, 2/13/13). By doing nothing, they captivate the audience in an intimate, shared moment. I did not fully understand the power of this connection until reading Thomas Merton. He simplifies the concept of nothingness by saying that, “the zero [he] speak[s] of is not a mathematical symbol. It is the infinite—a storehouse or womb (Garbha) of all possible good or values” (Merton, 107). Thus, nothing is everything and everything is nothing. When people approach a new situation with nothing—no preconceived notions or expectations—they are able to take in everything around them. As Inouye put it, when you sit with the same people at lunch every day, you have something, but branching out with nothing might be more beneficial. When we all share nothing, it leaves us open to everything. (Lecture, 2/13/13). I initially had trouble grasping this concept, since I approached nothingness like a child would—with an image of eternal darkness following the end of the world. I do not think I can fully embrace true nothingness just yet, but I am getting closer. To me, nothingness involves emptying your mind to be filled by the world around you; it’s letting yourself be at your most vulnerable to outside influence and fully accepting other people and the natural world. If that is true, we can write our most vivid weekly poems when we are tuned in to nothing.

~Ezra Dunkle-Polier

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2 Responses to Making Something out of Nothing

  1. ” I approached nothingness like a child would”

    That is so *you,* Ezra. Such a poor child.

  2. Izel Maras says:

    It seems like if we were to change this preconception of “nothingness” from ‘an image of eternal darkness following the end of the world’ to a one with more positive connotations, we can get closer to understanding Mu and appreciating nothingness. It is funny to think that even to understand nothingness -a bit- we must start with nothing , not with an image of darkness, meaninglessness or anything such.

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