The Other Side of Something
I sat down this morning to write something. I always hope it is somehow inspirational for the folks who read this. I know there are different ways to be inspired. Sometimes inspiration is simply gaining some knowledge. Sometimes inspiration is more motivational. It can move someone to be or to do something. Sometimes inspiration is assurance. There’s a lot to be said spiritually speaking to be assured. I know how easy it is to feel unsure---to experience doubt. After all, spirituality does not deal in certainties. It is more about faith and less about certainty.
So I sat down to write something spiritual---something inspirational. Often something immediately comes and I am like a vessel of the Spirit. Words spill out of my fingers stroking the computer keys. It is as if I am inspired and that same inspiration literally is transferred to the screen. Other times, it is more deliberate, but it is nevertheless inspirational. I have an idea and it is developed---more slowly, but surely.
This time I sat down to write something inspirational---and nothing! Instead of something, I had nothing. I could fake it. I have enough knowledge to fill a couple pages! But that would be a couple of pages without heart---without spirit. It would be finished, but it would not be fair. If we are dealing with inspiration, we should avoid faking it.
So it seemed like I was stuck with nothing, instead of something. Nothing would look pretty barren on your computer screen! What can you do with nothing? Not much, apparently. Nothing is not a good thing. Think about your bank account or empty kitchen cabinets. When it comes to money and food, nothing is not good news.
But then, it began to hit me. Perhaps when we are dealing with the spiritual, it is different. I waited to see if inspiration might come. Gradually, I realized that spiritually speaking, nothing is the other side of the coin from something. Maybe when it comes to the spiritual, nothing is not bad news. Spiritually speaking, nothing is different news and, just maybe, good news. Let’s pursue this.
I began to sense the rich history in nothingness. Nothing is the other side of the coin of something. I think our American culture assumes there always is something; we don’t do nothing very well. Somehow nothing seems disappointing, if not downright failure. Why would someone want nothing when that person could have something? Let’s see.
I began to get a spiritual sense for nothing. Nothing is like rest. It is at least a pause. Nothing allows me to relax. Nothing moderates or, even, eradicates my busyness. Nothingness can be restorative. It is like a balm for the disquieted soul. To have nothing, spiritually speaking, allows me to be and quit doing. Nothing eases the pressure of doing---of performing and of perfection. Perhaps that is a key spiritual lesson of nothingness: learning to be.
A second valuable spiritual aspect of nothing---instead of something---is the fact that nothing allows me to relax focus. Nothing provides a space---and openness and even vastness---that something does not allow space. To have something always focuses us---maybe even pinpoint focus. Something is always this and not that. But nothing is not focused. It is spacious.
The spaciousness of nothing allows us to relax and breathe. In fact, we can breathe very deeply. I would even suggest nothing allows spiritual depth and breadth that something never allows---something is always too focused.
As I write these words, I recall how some of the contemplatives---the mystics---of the church were “people of nothing.” I think of St. John of the Cross, who talks about “night.” Night becomes an image for nothing, but I can almost hear St. John yelling in my ear: nothing has no image! An image is something. You cannot image nothing with something. And I believe he is correct.
So if I am getting nothing, I relax into that spaciousness. I don’t need anything---no words, no images and no ideas. Nothing is literally no-thing---the other side of the coin of some-thing. To have nothing is to have a chance---a great spiritual chance. You have the chance to be graced and gifted in remarkable ways. In the spirit of St. John of the Cross, nothing will lead us into and through the dark night of the soul. We will be led into the deep mystery that is the Holy One.
There in that deep mystery---we will know nothing! When you know nothing, words are of no use…experience is everything.