Thursday, April 26, 2012

Zero

Scott Bradley


One is the loneliest number. Two's company. Three's a crowd. But what's zero?

For one thing, it is no number. It is the absence of number. Zero plus one equals zero.

But zero is not even this; it is the absence of nothing, since, if there was something to absent, there would not be zero. Zero is not negation; what would there be to negate?

I suppose Zen is the philosophy most enamored of zero. Find it (mu) and everything will be okay. Really? How could nothing be okay or not-okay? So, everything is okay because nothing is okay or not-okay. Okay. But this is not zero. It is an accommodation with zero.

For those who are something, nothing is incomprehensible. But if there is something, there is no nothing. So, there is either something or there is nothing. Or is it that something can become nothing?

Can I, who deems himself something, become nothing? This would seem to be the case. But maybe the something I think myself to be is really nothing. Is this possible? Or is it that there is no nothing and only something?

Or is it possible that there is a something that is also a nothing? This seems the closest approximation to the case, though it makes no sense. Why would that surprise us?

If I am a nothing that thinks itself something, then I must be quite uncomfortable in my something-ness. This being the case, the most comfortable way to be a something aware of being nothing would be to let nothing inform and guide my something. And this brings us back to an accommodation with zero.

If you have followed my argument, I hope you will tell me what it is and how it concludes, because I haven't a clue. More likely, you will tell me to give it a rest and get on with the rest of my life. That would be good advice, though useless. But how can it be both good and useless?

Okay, I'll stop now. And if you'll just keep your advice and give me some of those magic lotus blossoms you're eating, I'll promise to not bring it up again.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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