Romancing the Void

March 11th, 2010 by Editor B

Next to nothingness

Next to Nothingness by Diane Yuri/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It seems in our culture we are afraid of silence and emptiness. We fill our days with activities and rush about and chatter a lot, but underneath this superficial noise many of us feel somewhat hollow. If we pause we may get a glimpse of the yawning abyss which frightens us.

I believe that existence is inherently empty — devoid of intrinsic meaning. It’s part of the labor of life to create meaning and purpose. It’s something we have to invent, or let others invent for us.

But I think we should not be scared of the void. We should learn to embrace it when necessary. Perhaps we should even romance it.

I didn’t always feel this way. Here’s the lyrics of a song I wrote over twenty years ago.

It’s the curious nature of curious things
That leads me in the darkness that questioning brings
It seems my whole life I’ve been questioning things

And it takes all my time, it takes all my soul
Sucks it all down in a great big hole
The void of oblivion, the nothingness that I know

This snippet of doggerel is a little embarrassing in its awkwardness, but I think it does a good job of capturing the sentiment of a period in my life, when I was a young man coming through an existential crisis.

I feel differently now. Over the years I have made my peace with “the darkness that questioning brings.” I have come to thoroughly enjoy that “darkness.” And I’m no longer so frightened of the “void of oblivion.” It actually kind of turns me on. From time to time I take a moment to pause, draw breath, quiet myself, and think about nothing in particular. My mind tends to be so hyperactive that it’s actually a bit of a challenge to get to that state where the void presents itself. It can still be scary and disorienting, sometimes, but ultimately it is always refreshing.

The void is full of surprises.

7 Responses to “Romancing the Void”

  1. Julie (Marietta,GA) Says:

    Beautifully said !

  2. swiftone Says:

    You’ve got it half right. The part that is wrong is deadly. But in all things, search for the truth.

  3. Eric Says:

    Some of my favorite moments are when I take the dog out for a walk after dark and I look up toward the stars and marvel at both the fact of my consciousness and the enormity of everything that I’m a miniscule part of.

  4. Brooks Says:

    The flashes of emptiness I had when I was young were more vertiginous than pleasant.

    As I’ve gotten older, my brain has quieted down, and the quietness has brought about a gradual shift in perspective that’s pulled the void permanently into the foreground. I could yammer on about staring constantly into the void but won’t, other than to say that it’s not trippy, not an illusion, and not Alzheimer’s! When brain-chatter slows, other things happen. I think it’s a simple as that.

    If you’ve had a glimpse of the void, you’ve toppled the first domino. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

    I love that photo. I have a similar view out my bedroom window. On foggy days, the Hudson River, the New Jersey Palisades, and the huge gray span of the George Washington Bridge vanish completely.

  5. roxfan Says:

    I do not dread returning to the void from whence I came. The thought of eternal existence is much more frightening.

  6. Jack Schick Says:

    Quote:
    Human Conduct is ever unreliable until
    anchored in the Divine.
    Everything in future will improve
    if you are making a spiritual effort Now.
    –Swami Sri Yukteswar in
    Autobiography of a Yogi
    by Paramahansa Yogananda

    I consider this to be Christian required Reading.

  7. Romancing the void, by Bart Everson | Humanistic Paganism Says:

    […] This article first appeared at b.rox. […]

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