Saturday, 31 May 2014

Blog #49

This is blog number 49, and I have nothing to write about. So write about nothing, says the muse.

Well. Nothing is the absence of something. If I had something to write about, I wouldn’t be fretting about nothing, would I? But I dutifully troll the internet to see if I can find out something about nothing. Surprise! Google has lots of information about nothing, and it turns out that nothing is a very valuable thing to meditate on. Many people have, and have shared their thoughts with us. For instance...

"Nothing works unless you do." Maya Angleou.
From what I can gather, there are two schools of thought about nothing. Either nothing is very bad, or it is very good.

First, the bad news. The very sound of the word is empty. Nothing – literally, “no thing” – is a negative way of looking at things. The word doesn’t carry the rich sensory stimulation of words like chocolate, symphony, or lilac. “Nothing” doesn’t make your heart dance with delight.

And apparently, the worst thing you can do in a crisis is nothing, said Theodore Roosevelt. Making the wrong decision is better than making no decision. Personally, I’m not so sure of that. A lot of well-intentioned people run wildly off in all directions during a crisis, creating more problems. But I’m not Teddy Roosevelt, so what do I know? Nothing.

C.S. Lewis said that when “nothing” is equated with meaninglessness, the devil is at work. “Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man's best years, not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like ...” You get the picture. That kind of nothing is very bad, indeed. Avoid it like the plague.

But on the other side of the coin, there are others who praise “nothing”. Philosophers like Plato, Socrates, and writer Leo Tolstoy say that when we finally begin to understand that we know nothing, we begin to be wise. The older I get, the more I have to agree with these old guys. When I was younger, I thought I had all the answers. Now, I realize how wrong I was. Eventually, who knows, I may not know anything at all and then finally be considered very wise.

Back in the 50s, a wise man named Robert Smith wrote a great little book called “Where did you go? Out. What did you do? Nothing.” In it, he recounts the unstructured, undemanding days of his childhood in the 20s, when he could leave the house in the morning, play immies and mumbly-peg all day with kids on the street, and come home when the streetlights came on. It is a book in praise of nothing: no expectations, no grand goals like winning the soccer tournament, no parents supervising play dates, no hovering. I know, I know, times have changed (that’s a blog for another day), but the idea of having vast stretches of unstructured time is a valuable one, not only for children, but for adults as well. (And, by the way, the book is so beloved by boomers who read it when they were younger, it’s recently been reprinted. They want to give it to their overscheduled kids, I’m guessing.)

Anyone who has ever created anything knows how valuable “nothing” is. We need time to do nothing, so that inspiration can speak to us when we are finally listening. Ironically, this blog which I love to do so much, often fills my days with something, which when added to the anything and everything of every day life, leaves little time for nothing. That’s why, as you’re reading this, I will be sitting in our trailer at a campground at the ocean, doing nothing, all by myself.

Because this is blog 49, I only have three more blogs left to write to fulfill my commitment to write a blog a week that combines quilting and musings on life. Do I continue? Do I move on to something else? Some days I think I know the answer to that, but there are other days when I know nothing. And so my retreat will be a time to do nothing, to just be open, to listen. “What, you’re going to wait for the Almighty to tell you what to do?” asks a friend. Well, yes, I guess so, but since the Almighty isn’t a cosmic bellhop who you can order around, I am ready for the possibility of “hearing” nothing. The experience in itself will be good;  time, space, and freedom –  the by-products of nothing – are wonderful gifts for the questing soul.

I wrote about this mandala woman in my August 24 blog. She is coming along with me to my retreat. Perhaps I will finally finish her after 4 years of pondering! I hope so.
“Nothing, Everything, Anything, Something: If you have nothing, then you have everything, because you have the freedom to do anything, without the fear of losing something.” Jarod Kintz

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