An Essay about Nothing

Oct 19, 2002

The Bottom Line Nothing much.


Zip! Zero! Nada!

The absence of anything. Not a thing. What could be simpler and more straightforward? Actually, it's pretty complicated. Nothing is seldom really nothing.

You would think that they could at least get it straight in mathematics. One of the first things they teach you is that zero is nothing. Simple as a pimple, right? But as soon as you grasp that concept, they tell you that you can have less than nothing. Huh! So "nothing" must really be something, simply because it's greater than less than nothing. Still gives me a headache trying to figure it out.

And forget about physics. Physicists, in attempting to calculate the mass of the universe, are quite determined to prove that "nothing" must really be something, since they can't find enough "something" to add up to what they consider to be everything. Confusing? Irrational? Just remember that these are the same folks who say that nothing can exist in a vacuum. Guess they never emptied one.

The Nihilist considers everything to be nothing, while many Buddhists think that achieving nothing is everything. And, if you're the irreverent type, nothing is sacred.

If you're religious, you believe that God created everything out of nothing. If you're a taxpayer, you are constantly amazed at the ability of our politicians and bureaucrats to create "nothing" out everything you worked so hard to earn.

And isn't it odd that where you have your "nothing" is important?

If you have nothing on your mind, that's a good thing. If you have nothing in mind…well, you're undecided and probably open to suggestions…and that's not bad. If, however, you have nothing upstairs, that's not so good at all, in fact, you probably don't understand a word I've written. And woe is the man who has nothing downstairs. His love-life will soon be nothing.

Folks who have nothing up their sleeves are honest. But if they have nothing in their pockets, they're broke. If you have nothing on your plate, you're not hungry; you're just not busy.

Not busy? More confusion. Doing nothing is quite restful, while having nothing to do is downright boring. Go figure.

When someone offers you something for nothing, beware. You'll find that nothing can be very expensive, indeed. And when you buy something on the installment plan, "nothing down" usually means a heck of a lot later.

Perhaps the most confusing thing about "nothing" is its use in normal conversation with the people who are closest to us. To fully grasp it's meaning you need to be part psychiatrist and part mind-reader.

Ask a teenager what he or she did during the day and they'll typically respond, "Nothing." That innocent "nothing" could mean anything from accidentally blowing up the chemistry lab, getting a perfect score on the SATs, or knocking over the neighborhood 7-Eleven.

And "nothing" means different things to different sexes. When the woman in your life seems angry or depressed and you ask what's bothering her and she responds, "Nothing," you can safely assume that she really means that it's everything…about you. And when she tells you that she wants "nothing" for her birthday or your anniversary, you can be sure that the "nothing" she wants had better be made out of gold and be encrusted with diamonds.

Men, on the other hand, are much easier to read. Do we look troubled? Don't worry about it. Nothing's really wrong. Chances are that we're hungry, horny, tired, or our team just lost a big game. We usually have absolutely nothing else on our minds. Nothing complicated about us.

Well, since Epinions will pay me nothing for writing this, enough said.

It's already "much ado about nothing."

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