There is an inherent blasphemy involved in writing about “the void” since it is inevitable that we try to give shape to that which has no shape. Essays of this nature are best treated as temporary scaffolds that might enable us to see a little further, and then quickly dismantled.
It is said that nature abhors a vacuum, that a region of empty space will not stay empty for long, or a quiet mind will not stay quiet for long. In fact, there is no such thing as empty space, something called quantum froth fills even the tiniest volume of space with sub-atomic particles that pop into existence for the briefest of existences. Lao Tsu distinguished the void from existence by calling all the things that exist the ten thousand things. He saw the void as dark, silent and mysterious. The ten thousand things he saw as temporary manifestations to be thrown on the bonfire of vanities once they had been used up. He said that “Heaven is heartless treating all things as straw dogs. The sage is heartless treating all things as straw dogs.” Straw dogs are used in Japanese ceremonies and simply discarded or burned once the ceremony is over. It is the void that Lao Tsu values, being the womb from which all temporary manifestations appear – including you and I.
Like nature, people cannot help but make attempts to fill the vacuum. In our thinking, we construct elaborate concepts and theories to crush the unbearable silence of the void. We think in terms of meaning, purpose, values, order, good, bad – and so on. That concepts such as “purpose” and “meaning” are purely human affairs seems to be unnoticed by most people – the universe knows nothing about purpose and meaning. In reality, these concepts are simply attempts to validate ourselves, to avoid the eternal silence of what lies behind the ten thousand things. Spinoza referred to God as the “potential for existence”. Existence itself is hardly worthy of attention, it is the realm of the transitory – the ten thousand things. But the void is pure potential, and because it is not manifest it is eternal. And so all attempts to find meaning, purpose, the good, simply attempt to negate the void.
Dancing with the void is like dancing with a very desirable sexual partner. The desire to pull in a little bit closer is always going to be irresistible. Every part of us wants to fill the void – to explain everything, to acquire more stuff, to give life meaning, to have a purpose. But in the very act of doing these things we kill the real life and substitute it with some monster of our own making – a religion, spiritual practice, an ideology, notions of morality.
To dance with the void while resisting life’s invitation to destroy it is the ultimate dance – a constant tension caused by the manifest wishing to fill the unmanifest. And now this short piece is finished you can discard it, as just another attempt to fill in the void.