Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: thoughts about nothing ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: thoughts about nothing
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: timespacette-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 14 May 2006 23:45 PDT
Expires: 13 Jun 2006 23:45 PDT
Question ID: 728873
For a writing project:

I need ideas, thoughts, quotes, aphorisms, succinct theories . . .
what have you . . . about NOTHING.

(I don't mean 'nothing' . . . I mean the concept of nothing . . .)


Request for Question Clarification by sublime1-ga on 15 May 2006 00:12 PDT
Enlightenment is described in the 'Hsin Hsin Ming',or 
'The Book of Nothing', attributed to Seng-t'san, the
third Zen Patriarch, who speaks of the Tao, or the 'Way':
Subject: Re: thoughts about nothing
Answered By: eiffel-ga on 15 May 2006 04:17 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi timespacette-ga,

If we perform a wildcard Google web search for "nothing is *" we find
that the phrase "nothing is impossible" absolutely dominates the
results. In a way, this phrase isn't about "nothing", because it's
really saying that "everything is possible".

Of course, that leads to an unavoidable contradiction, because if
"nothing is impossible", then it's also impossible that "nothing is

If we use the exclusion operator to remove from the search results any
page that contains the word "impossible", we find that the next most
frequent kind of "nothingness" is that "nothing is sacred". After that
we find:

nothing is more expedite
nothing is certain
nothing is happening
nothing is sound
nothing is done
nothing is ever done beautifully
nothing is getting done
nothing is stronger
nothing is wasted
nothing is more fearful
nothing is more tense

If we turn this around, and search for "* is nothing", we find that
people feel they simply must emphasize the degree of nothingness.
Simple "nothing" is rarely enough:

there is nothing
really is nothing
literally is nothing
simply is nothing
frankly is nothing
often is nothing
unfortunately is nothing
usually is nothing

There are of course plenty of riddles and jokes about nothing:

Q: From what number can you take half and leave nothing?
A: The number 8

Q: Why is the number 9 like a peacock?
A: Because it is nothing without its tail

Q: What rhymes with orange, purple and silver?
A: Nothing

Q: What existed before God, is greater than God, more evil than the
devil, poor people have it and wealthy people need it - but if you eat
it you will die?
A: Nothing

Q: What weighs nothing, yet ten people could not lift it?
A: A hole

There's nothing like a good joke. And truly, that last one was nothing
like a good joke.

In Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing", Beatrice says cryptically:

"As strange as the thing I know not. It were as
 possible for me to say I loved nothing so well as
 you: but believe me not; and yet I lie not; I
 confess nothing, nor I deny nothing."

Alice James said "Truly nothing is to be expected but the unexpected",
Ernie Kovacs said "Nothing in Moderation", Martin Gardner said "There
is still a difference between something and nothing, but it is purely
geometrical and there is nothing behind the geometry", and Michel de
Montaigne said that "Nothing is so firmly believed as, as what we
least know", and I can vouch for that.

There are plenty more of those at Wikiquote:

Search For query "nothing":

The idea of nothing has had plenty of people scratching their heads
(or whatever else they do whilst pontificating):

"...One view (that of Malebranche) is that what we call 'nothing' is
actually the general idea of being. Paradoxical, of course, but the
idea is this: when we talk about 'nothing' what we are actually
talking about is just the fuzzy notion of being in general in contrast
to a clearer perception of something in particular. 'Nothing' on this
view is, in a sense, a relatively vague something..."

"The idea of nothing has bugged people for centuries, especially in
the Western world. We have a saying in Latin, Ex nihilo nuhil fit,
which means "out of nothing comes nothing." It has occurred to me that
this is a fallacy of tremendous proportions ... It manifests in a kind
of terror of nothing, a put-down on nothing, and a put-down on
everything associated with nothing ... But to me nothing -- the
negative, the empty -- is exceedingly powerful. I would say, on the
contrary, you can't have something without nothing..."

"...So if you give up everything you think you have right now, you
have nothing. It's logical, isn't it? Just give it up right now and be
willing to have nothing..."

"...the idea of nothing seems much more of interest to artists than
the idea of something, or the idea of what mathematics can prove. What
artists seem more interested in is what mathematics can't prove..."

John Barrow wrote a book called "The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids,
and the Latest Ideas About the Origins of the Universe":

"In this book, Barrow examines scientific inquiry about nothingness,
from the use of zero by its earliest practitioners to the shifting
concept of the vacuum in the expanding universe of contemporary
astrophysicists. By exploring the complex philosophical associations
connected with nothing, Barrow arrives at an understanding of how
various traditions came to terms with the unknowable by delving into
the deeper significance of the mathematical void."
"Zero Tolerance - Interview with John Barrow"

Here's a poem about Nothing:

It starts like this:

"Out of nothing, I
 become nothing and will
 leave again for it..."

Finally, nothing is certain except for death and taxes.


Google search strategy:

"nothing is *"

"nothing is *" -impossible

"* is nothing"

"idea of nothing"

riddle OR riddles nothing
timespacette-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
thank you eiffel-ga, and now I understand what a 'wild card search' is
. . . finally.

thanks to commentors, and to sublime1-ga too for the Zen

I'll never forget something my physics professor said as we came upon
an ad for a headache releiver --- it rang true for me as someone who
was raised as a Christian Scientist --

the ad said 'Nothing works like Anacin'

and he said 'Why not try nothing?'



Subject: Re: thoughts about nothing
From: probonopublico-ga on 14 May 2006 23:58 PDT
Hi Timely One

It gives me great pleasure to contribute to your project.

Have you seen 'Band Wagon'?

After the end of the Opening Night, Cyd Charisse and the rest of the
gang surprise Fred Astaire (playing Tony Hunter) and Cyd delivers her
closing lines:

'Tony we all got together and we bought you nothing - nothing except
our love, etc. The show's a hit and it will run for a long time but,
as far as I am concerned, it will go on forever'.

Cue for 'That's Entertainment'.

Hope this helps.

Subject: Re: thoughts about nothing
From: redfoxjumps-ga on 15 May 2006 01:25 PDT
... nothing from nothing is nothing  ...

Rings in My head in a song the folks in the room nest door played way to loud.

Could be wrong ...  my hearing is nothing special.
Subject: Re: thoughts about nothing
From: amber00-ga on 15 May 2006 08:47 PDT
Jean-Paul Sartre's 'Being and Nothingness' is relevant, though hardly succinct. 
Zen philosophy has a great deal to say on the topic, as does the
Japanese philosophyer, Kitaro Nishida.
Subject: Re: thoughts about nothing
From: pinkfreud-ga on 15 May 2006 10:27 PDT
Here's a little nothing of a book that you might enjoy, timespacette:

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy