What is nothing?

I used to occasionally lay in bed awake at night and wonder if I could picture nothingness, though however hard I tried, I never could. Whenever I try to conceptualize purely nothing, absolute zero, nada, zilch, I’m talking goose egg, nil — not a single thing. My mind always reverts to visualisations of an empty void.

But you see, a space is a noun, it’s a thing. So pure nothing can’t be a spatial vacuum, as a vacuum is a physical phenomenon with real properties.

If something has no extension in space it becomes shut off from our vision, after all, our nervous system’s vision evolved to process inputs coming in from the three dimensional “visual fields” of our cones. However, that doesn’t mean something can’t be conceptualized. It should’t be black either, so stop picturing darkness, as that is still something.

It isn’t zero, it isn’t any of the concepts that spring to mind. So what could it be?

White is a “thing” as well. The absence of everything else is the conspicuous presence of anything else, like that of a negative integer. 

A negative integer is still a thing, in the working sense that it can be represented to a computer, thought and spoken about accurately, represented as a symbol. 

The puzzle is that so is nothing (zero). And yet, it is distinguished from every other aspect of existence in that it has an indescribable character.

I imagine in order to experience true nothingness you would have to completely shut your mind off. Would this require sleep, death, or possibly the state one experienced prior to one’s birth? 

And yet, that nothingness, somehow gave rise to everything, which in some ways is synonymous to consciousness, or conscious perception from an observer’s standpoint. 

When one is in deep, dreamless sleep, your life could be taken from you without your merest peep. What would be then? Then I imagine I will have arrived at nothingness. 

So, nothingness is an experience which can only be encountered at the fringes of life, before birth and after death.


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