Hariod Brawn has asked me to write my take on “nothing happening” and “nothingness”. So it is my every privilege to respond with something on nothing. For all and each, with sheer gratitude for simply being in the company of my readers.
Critics of composer John Cage are legion. His best known work 4′ 33″ is a quite quiet piece. Audiences chime in with coughs, traffic noise, sound absent upon the stage. Movements end with a drop of the piano-key lid, they begin upon opening the lid.
The most common objection to 4′ 33″:
“Why, anyone can do that.”
“No one had before I did.”
Nothing doing, or doing nothing.
You may know of the Zen koan on the cup full and the cup empty. Some good nothing there.
That reminds me of something. Reading literature in original language is a way to avoid the lie of translation. All translations are variations on untruth. Poetry is highly susceptible to mistranslation. Reading Rilke in the original German is worth the effort.
Languages are subtle windows into culture. Deliberate mistranslation is a bludgeoning tool for propagandists.
Perhaps I digress.
“Death to America” is a deliberate mistranslation from Farsi, inexcusable ignorance of ancient and marvelous Persian culture. The proper translation is “Down with America,” but the word “death” suggests “jihad” and feeds Islamophobia. Bomb ’em.
Now, back to nothing.
Die Unendliche Geschichte by Michael Ende quite accurately tells the universal tale of a nihilist threat: das Nicht (The Nothing). This tale is nothing like that empty cup or the useful pot. Milne wrote about a wonderful birthday present that Piglet gifted Eeyore: “The Useful Pot.”
Emptiness can be wonderful. It can be horrible. Another fantasy by Ende: Momo. A tale of time thieves who deviously steal hours at a time from unsuspecting, innocent hardworking people. Give us the time of your life and we will invest it for you. Momo is a homeless waif who lends her time freely and with gratitude. A most rare quality.
I proclaim that we are all existential, and by “all” I mean all sentient beings. We all exist, but some of us are exploited. To the victors go the history books — sometimes those victors also build expedient death camps for tasty or despised fellow sentients. Truth is not something generated by majority rule.
Do I again digress?
Thanks for reading.