Meditating this morning I had a thought. (Lots of them actually, in spite of my best efforts to the contrary!).
Nothing. No-thing. No Thing. It is impossible. Even if you are stuck on a definition of “thing” as that which is made of dense physical matter, you have to contend with the real existence of “things” such as energy and thoughts, as well as the established fact that dense physical matter is merely compressed energy!
A ray of light, a sound, a vortex and a thought are things are they not?
You can recognize them, name them, describe them, feel them, make them. You can say they suddenly flashed in or grew slowly, were predictable or surprising, exciting, frightening, interesting, passed away and didn’t come back or were sustained, repeated or changing, minor or very compelling and occupying. They can be translated into speech, writing and pictures and passed on to other people. With all these nameable, knowable attributes they are certainly “something” yet do not apparently have physical material or even entirely measurable properties.
So perhaps if we refine our definition of “thing” to “that which possesses describable, identifiable properties”, then “nothing” becomes that which cannot be described or identified, or the absence of that which can be described or identified, which by definition makes it impossible to prove it exists! And it is a “thing” by this definition, because we have just given a description of “nothing” as being “that which has no describable or identifiable properties or is the absence of those”. We have just imagined it, thought about it, given it a name and described it – a complete paradox indeed!
Not only do we lose “nothing” in this logical conundrum, but on the cosmic scale, our ordinary human abilities plus extended technological abilities to perceive, identify and describe are very limited in the overall scheme; if there were truly a “nothing” we would be unable to even imagine it. So it’s rather arrogant to assume that there is such a thing as “nothing”.
Now what got me on this roll is that I was meditating to re-connect to my innermost (not to become empty). For many people the goal of meditation is to stop all thoughts, desires, perceptions, and become “empty”, become “nothing”. However as we’ve discussed, logically there cannot really be nothing.
What about the cold black “emptiness” of space, the “nothing” between the stars? Well actually it’s full of stuff.
I have recently been reading the biography of E=MC2. Up came the issue of what matter is. Once you get right into it, it starts to go pretty fuzzy and metaphysical. If you are materially oriented you could conclude that there’s not really anything there, that “everything is nothing”, or that there’s a lot of “nothing” between the “things” and from a certain limited perspective this seems to be true. However matter is really energy, compressed and compacted to an incredible degree; matter is light, gathered up and squeezed together so tightly it can’t shoot off at 298,019 km per second but has to stay put in a solid, liquid or gaseous particulate material, in which even the spaces between the “particles” are full of energy and forces. What about something-or-others that could exist in material levels beyond solid, liquid or gas? Could it be that thought is one of those levels of “matter”? It is after all a concentrated form of energy. Could it be that thoughts, which travel, can be identified, described, held, passed on, have effects, etc, are a form of matter, albeit a more rarefied and less compressed form of light than “ordinary” physical matter?
Another curly issue that comes up in the biography of E=MC2 is the birth of the universe. You might wonder what that’s got to do with some people’s aspirations to “emptiness” or “nothingness” in meditation? It’s relevant because the core issue is whether there is such a thing as nothing, and perhaps the best time/place/state to look for it is before the birth of the (very thingy) universe.
On this topic, in the documentary “Expelled” was an excellent interview of a creationist who was criticizing scientists for criticizing creationists for their “airy fairy metaphysical explanations” of how the universe came to be, while when you get right down to it the scientists came up with: “well first there was nothing (maybe) and then for some reason there was a big explosion of this nothing and suddenly stuff started flying apart in all directions and it just kept going and that’s how it all began” – just as airy fairy and metaphysical as, “well first there was darkness, nothing, then this omniscient invisible being said let there be light and hey presto everything appeared in seven days!”
As a scientist myself, this was the first time I’d heard a creationist identify the equality of science and creationism on this subject. How can you have a big energy explosion producing stuff or a big omniscient “someone” if there was nothing or no one there to begin with? What is this “stuff” that flies apart in all directions or “gets created” if there was nothing there to make it from?! Religion and science tell the same funny story (from their respectively high-and-mighty but blind positions) about a virtually unknowable beginning. Isn’t it pretty silly to be disagreeing about it?
Back to E=MC 2 and that beginning of the universe: yes, some of the physicists state that there was “nothing but energy” (therefore not nothing at all!), then at time zero, it went Bang! whereupon space-time was born and matter rapidly appeared and the whole thing expanded at an incredible rate. OR, that there was a kind of different “something” that contracted to a point, in a Big Crunch, and went kind of bang whereupon space-time kind of began again and so did the material universe, as in the fully Big Bang, one-start example. Even in the “nothing” once-only big bang example, they say that before the bang there was some anti-matter and a bit of some kind of ordinary matter plus a lot of energy (ie. definitely not nothing – doh!) and that’s how our post-Big Bang material universe was created! Have another paradox for breakfast!
However, modern cosmological scientists are beginning to converge on the Ageless Wisdom, as exemplified by a quote from The Daily Galaxy in July this year: “If the Universe contracts, then blows up, over and over, has this gone on forever? Or is it possible that our view of the Universe is so limited that we’re only seeing one tiny fraction of it, and thus, any theories or explanations we offer, are little more than guesses?”
So not only can we NOT prove there’s “nothing” or “emptiness” before or at the beginning of the known universe, making it unlikely now, but we can’t escape there being something. And we can’t find “nothing” even right up to the present day. In fact the more the scientists look, the more there seems to be!
What we do know is that the universe is FULL of light.
Light (energy) has to enter directly into our eyes and interact with their physical matter in the form of pigment-containing nerves in order for us to be able to “see” the light. So we see the stars as small points of light – just the few beams pointing right at us, crossing through “the (so-called) emptiness of space” to reach us.
But the stars are emanating spherically in every direction, filling space with the energy of moving light and streams of particles too. All the light that is going everywhere except directly toward us, we can’t see. Only if it bounces off something material and heads our way can it then enter our eyes and we see it. For example when you see the milkyness along the centre of the Milky Way, that is the light of millions of stars bouncing off all the gas and dust of the nebulae in your direction, and showing you just how much light is out there in the spaces between the stars. Although there is gas and dust everywhere else it’s less concentrated thus hard to see especially if the light’s going sideways relative to us; also the physical galaxy is rather flattened so we see best through the thickness of the central plane. If the gas and dust were as thick everywhere in space we would see the whole sky lit up with starlight like the Milky Way. Importantly, not all light is visible, in fact only a tiny fraction of it is. Of that huge fraction that is invisible to our eyes, it would be unreasonable to suppose that our technology can detect or measure anything more than a tiny fraction of that. Our infant physical science is developing; how far there is to go no-one could guess. Basically, space is full of energy in the forms of matter and light (whether visible or invisible). Filling all the gaps between the stuff we can detect at present, there are the contentious “dark matter” and “dark energy” (for which early indications are that they do exist) and maybe some other kinds too, making up the remaining 80-ish % of the universe. Even black “holes” are full of energy, heat, radiation, gravitational forces, everything they’ve sucked in and pulverized….
The whole Universe is one continuous, infinitely spherical energy-matter “thing” like you or me. No room for nothing, anywhere.
So, suck eggs you purveyors of “nothingness” and “emptiness”! There’s not a single patch of nothing or emptiness anywhere, only total fullness. If you think you’re empty, it’s only an illusion revealing that you have not perceived and connected to the fullness all around, through and within you. And if you really (think you) have become “empty” during meditation or depression or some other state, something must have moved in to fill the space “you” previously occupied and the obvious question is: who or what?
“no-thing = something that is nonexistent” (yeah right!)
“some·thing = a certain undetermined or unspecified thing”
“thing = a material object; some entity, object, or creature; anything that is or may become an object of thought; things of the spirit; a thought or statement; a living being or creature”
P.S. You think your glass is empty? Nonsense! It’s full of air, light, energy, spirit and thought!
© Dianne Trussell 2013