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.