Many ways of knowing nothing

Within Eastern philosophy there is a strong emphasis on nothingness. To a Western mind it can all be a bit puzzling. Prompted by something Chris recently shared with me, I’ve jotted down a few insights that have come to me over the years. Hopefully others will find them helpful.

Hearing nothing

When we listen to music, really engage with it so as to know it as the composer and orchestra intended, then we will know the nothingness within silence. Likewise on a walk in the countryside, in-between the birdsong and rustling of wind in trees, will be  . ..  nothing. This we can know and, in that knowing, be closer to creation: the totally of all there is . . . and all there isn’t.

In a similar way, we might contemplate some thing, any thing and be aware that, between the electrons that constitute this physical object, is  . . . nothing. Thus again, by tuning into and being present with, we can know. We can know that nothing is a significant part of the essence of so much in life.

Into the void

This leads nicely into the next sort of knowing of nothing: when we are in deep reflection, mindful only of mindfulness itself, at a point in cosmic consciousness where we can step into a mental void. We can allow our whole, inner, essence to expand into the vacuum of nothingness that is the unmanifest potential of life itself. It can be a scary thing to do but with courage we can feel a sense of absolute freedom that comes in knowing nothing in this way.

What is often being discussed in relation to knowing nothing can, however, be something rather different:

“I know nothing”; “I don’t know”

We may use these lines at those times when we cannot find an answer to a question. For example, in respect of situation in our life where we don’t know which way to turn. For example, as I write this I’m awaiting the result of a job interview I had last week and preparing for another interview in a few days’ time. If I were to be offered both jobs, I’m not sure which one, if either, I would take . . . and I do not know if I will be offered either.

I’ve done my research to glean the known information on them, I’ve tuned into both and I’m still done the wiser.

What I do get from my attempt to (in Chris’s terms) ‘be clear’ about the situation is a sense of ‘wait and see’. It’s not for me to know . . . at this point in time. Stepping back, I realise and conclude that this is one of those situations where I’m not meant to know, it’s not appropriate for me to know because to do so would be to pre-empt the unfolding of reality in the here-and-now. Sometimes we know nothing because that way we learn some patient and detachment.

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