More to Nothing Than We Think

It is in the nature of humans to fill up empty spaces.

Empty stomachs are relieved by the intake of food, awkward pauses in conversation are gone with just a few words and blank pages soon have something on them. The official definition of Nothing according to is “no thing” and “nonexistence”; however, there is no such thing as a true nonexistence. For if Nothing was truly no thing, there would not be a definition for it. Just the fact that there is a word and concept for it makes Nothing something. However, things appear out of what was originally not there.

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Ideas and creations seem to come out of nothing. Therefore, Nothing is not nonexistence itself but is actually the potential for existence. Its scientific definition being “a space empty of matter”, a vacuum is often considered to be Nothing. However, a vacuum is actually not empty. Even though a vacuum lacks atoms and particles, it still contains time and space.

This gives it vacuum energy, which is the potential energy in a cubic centimeter of space to between 1×10^-20 Joules and 1×10^107 Joules. That is a lot of potential energy for something that is considered to have nothing in it. There is a certain position energy-wise that Earth is in. But with just a little more energy released, it might be enough to start a chain reaction which releases more energy pushing more things around the edge. For example, just pushing a small object in the universe over its peak, one can cause a chain reaction causing the release of other objects energy. Once this begins to happen, everything changes nearly instantaneous and the sudden rush of energy will destroy the Earth at the speed of light.

The vacuum, which is supposed to be nothing, actually has the potential to destroy the Universe. Therefore, this simple vacuum, this nothingness actually has the potential for something great to happen, something that has the power to destroy everybody and everything. John Cage’s “4’33” is one of his most famous and controversial musical compositions. The piece is made of three movements which total up to exactly four minutes and thirty three seconds. What makes this particular piece so famous is that it is four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence.

The conductor stands in front of his or her unmoving orchestra in silence until the next movement, then which he or she turns the pages of the sheet music to the next movement which contains no musical score. Or a pianist sits in silence on the piano bench for four minutes and thirty three seconds. During the entire performance, no music is played. Although many criticize this piece for its lack of tangible music, Cage defended this piece by saying “Silence to my mind is as much a part of music as sound.” And although no music plays during the performance, there is still much to be heard.

The audience is forced to listen to the sounds around them or to create their own music in their mind. And at the end, they applause. Since there was applause, one cannot say that nothing happened during the performance. The audience must have been applauding for something. It might have been the absurd concept of a musical piece made up of silence.

Or the novelty of sitting in a fancy auditorium watching a silent orchestra not play. Or maybe, just maybe, it could have been for the beautiful unforgettable music that they heard within the quiet. The silence, the nothingness of “4’33” by John Cage is an opportunity for the participants to create for themselves, the music which the piece in itself lacks. What seems to be nothing or not exist is actually the potential for something to exist or happen. The vacuum, devoid of any matter, still has the power to destroy all matter instantly. John Cage’s “4’33”, a piece where there is no music, uses the lack of sound to produce music.

Nothing may mean different things to different people. To a mathematician, nothing may be just the number zero, a quantity that’s not there. To a writer, it may be a blank page and to a painter, it may be just be a white canvas. But what we all know for sure is that there is more to Nothing than we think.