MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

A violent cold has pinned me down for an entire week and I have felt like a clubbed seal, bedridden with a splitting headache. Most of the time, I have devoted myself to watching magpies and small birds jumping around among the branches of a tree just outside my window. It rains a lot, sometimes it snows as well and the overcast sky has been like a soggy, grey and old woolen blanket.

Last night I had trouble falling asleep, coughed all the time, and thought about nothing. Nothing? Wasn´t that quite pleasant? Not at all. This morning I woke up without a headache and in a better mood. The disease seems to be almost defeated and now I cannot hinder myself from delving into my favorite pastime - blog writing.

Yesterday, before my hopeless efforts to sleep I read a book, Nothing: From Absolute Zero to cosmic oblivion - Amazing Insights into nothingness. This must have been a contributing factor to my insomnia. My aching head was incessantly buzzing with irritating thoughts about nothingness.

Through the years I have read quite a lot about the "new physics" and the origin of universe, but unfortunately I have never understood much of it. I blame my lack of mathematical skills. The book´s mottled compote of insights and thoughts filled my brain, while I restlessly twisted and turned in bed. I tried various tricks to clear up my head from thoughts about nothingness. I assumed that if I imagined myself a picture it could maybe make the thoughts disappear. What turned up in my mind was Paul Gauguin's painting Where do we come from? What are we? Where do we go?

The title is fascinating, though I have not been able to pair it with the painting´s motif. But what does it matter? Gauguin felt that this particular work of art was the best thing he had ever done. Depressed and sick with the flu and other ailments, he completed the big canvas in a creative fury.  Narcissistic and self-promoting he wrote to his friend Daniel de Montfried, who ran his affairs in Paris, that he had felt that this was his last painting. In his misery he had walked up into the mountains behind his house in Puna'auia and swallowed a large amount of arsenic. However, the dose was too big, he vomited and survived. When he, together with eight other paintings, sent Where do we come from to de Montfried, Gauguin wrote:

It is true that it is hard to judge one's own work, but in spite of that I believe that this canvas not only surpasses all my preceding ones, but that I shall never do anything better, or even like it. Before death I put in it all my energy, a passion so dolorous, amid circumstances so terrible, and so clear was my vision that the haste of the execution is lost and life surges up. It doesn't stink of models, of technique, or of pretended rules — of which I have always fought shy, though sometimes with fear.  […] So I have finished a philosophical Work on a theme comparable to that of the Gospel.

When a Belgian symbolist poet after the painting´s exhibition in Paris, “a critical and financial disaster”, had written a lukewarm review, Gauguin responded to his criticism in a long letter from Tahiti. He rebuked the critic by pointing out how useless it was to seek a meaning in an excellent work of art and base criticism on an assessment whether  the artist had been able to convey a message, or not:

My dream is intangible, it comprises no allegory. As Mallarmé said:  “it is a musical poem, it needs no libretto.” Consequently the essence of a work, unsubstantial and out of reach, consists precisely of “that which is not expressed; it flows by implication from the lines without colour or words; it is not a material structure.”

During my attempts to fall asleep I imagined that the title of Gauguin´s painting, Where do we come from? What are we? Where do we go? had something to do with nothingness. The answer to the three questions was probably - "nothing", in its factual meaning of  “no thing”, i.e. not anything tangible.

However, even things with not tangible presence - like language, mathematics and music may be described and even be made concrete through signs and symbols, such as texts, numbers, and sheet music.

Where does the art come from? Out of nothing? Where do humans come from? The answer is simple - through the union of a spermatozoa with an egg. But, what came first? The hen or the egg? And the meeting between a spermatozoa and the egg is far from sufficient for creating a human being. This also requires the emergence of consciousness. To me and all others the moment of conception - the fraction of a second when we were created – remains a void in our consciousness. For us there was nothing before that crucial unification inside our mother´s womb and it took considerable time before we became aware of our own existence.

So, where do we come from? Or rather - how did life emerge? Probably would most natural scientists state:  "Out of nothing". When the universe was created began a process that would lead to my existence. For 13.82 billion years ago the universe we all are a part of was created through a violent explosion. According to the researchers the most fateful moment occurred between the 10–43 second and the 10–36 second after what now is called The Big Bang. During that infinitesimal fraction of a second, the forces crucial for the development of our universe were separated from each other.

I don´t understand much, if any, of that and my greatest concern remains unanswered. Scientist are currently struggling to sort out what happened during the considerably less than a second when universe's existence once began, but I want to know what happened before that, and that's when everything becomes extremely complicated. The Big Bang created time, it was not there before. Time and matter are related. Without matter there is no time and vice versa. So before that crucial event, time did not even exist.

Can something be created out of nothing? What is nothing? “Ay, there's the rub!” as Hamlet exclaimed. If scientists disagree about and are busy exploring universe´s first second, let me as an ignorant amateur ponder on nothingness. Not that such thoughts provide much to anyone, but they amuse and challenge me, perhaps in a manner similar to what Gauguin alluded to when he asserted that art's meaning cannot be determined. What is the meaning of music, or the beauty of a landscape? It's not really an understanding I am pursuing, being well aware of the fact that the riddles of existence are unfathomable. What's the point of confused nocturnal conversations with good friends, while issues like coincidences, infinity and taste are raised? Other than they often are stimulating and pleasant?

While in Paris, I lived not far from the Boulevard Saint Germain and often passed by cafés like Les Deux MagotsLe Procopé and Café de Flore. They were all far too expensive for me so I never went in to sit down and order something, though when I saw tourists flocking there, I was convinced that many of them came in search of the mood of seething intellectual pursuit that once was enjoyed in such places, like in the circuits that intellectual titans like Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. Their coterie has become the prototype for stimulating conversations between friends.

Sartre often wrote about “nothing”. His great philosophical treatise was called L'Être et Néant, Being and Nothingness. In a summary of his philosophical thoughts, Existentialism and Humanism, Sartre stated that

… man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards. If man as the existentialist sees him is not definable, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself.

I have difficulties with Sartre, finding that something slightly stuffy and unhealthy soar above him. He had his circle of admirers and occasionally I have appreciated his writing. As a young man, I read Nausea and it touched me deeply, but at the same time the novel gave me an impression of being outdated. It pretends to be the diary of a young man, who tries to overcome his difficulties in  being part of the world, though to me it felt like an old, stuffy teacher told the story.

I associate Sartre with alcohol, drugs and cigarettes: Sure, he had his free relationship with Simone de Beauvoir and often wrote about love. While I was studying History of Religions there was much talk about Sartre's concept of love. How craving for love means that you want the loved one to choose you out of her/his own free will. Something that means that you actually want to dominate the object of your desire. However, it is not possible to force someone to love you. To be true and meaningful love must be based on choices made from the free will of those involved.

Sartre was an atheist, but his idea of love seems to reflect a notion common to the three monotheistic world religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in which an ostensibly loving and caring God controls his creation, while he at the same time provides humans with a choice to love him or not. This is symbolized by the fact that he in the Garden of Eden planted The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and forbade woman and man to eat from its fruits. As a loving entity, God provided humans with the ability to choose between loving him, or to violate his will and seek satisfaction on their own, by relying on their own knowledge.

Despite all this, I feel that something about Sartre's attitude to love is not quite right. What I have read about Sartre reveals him as a lecherous seducer of young ladies, sometimes acting like a kind of intellectual sugar-daddy, using his fame as a means of attraction and not being ashamed of involving Beauvoir in his schemes for seizing coveted quarry. I assume he was an eccentric and lonely man who feared to be touched and for who love actually was a power game revolving around control and submission. I perceive Sartre as moving around within musty, cramped, smoke-filled rooms, with a lack of fresh air and undisguised joy. He regards his surroundings with a glance colored by hidden complexes and an inflated ego.

Sartre writes that feeling of nothingness, of futility, may serve as liberation, an opportunity to create your own world, free from God and evasions. A world where you as an individual have a unique responsibility for your fellow being. However, the whole setting seems to me to be based on disgust towards life, where empathy boils down to an intellectual pursuit, generating from a feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness.

To me Sartre's world is a simplified existence where people are objectified and categorized. Where we observe and assess each other. Like when he in Being and Nothingness scrutinizes a waiter and use his observations of the man´s mechanical and professional savoir-fare to create an assessment of the waiter's understanding of himself and his world view. Sartre reminds me of an entomologist and I come to think of Jean-Henri Fabre´s masterful depictions of spiders, praying mantises and beetles´ instinctive and brutal existence.

It seems to me that Sartre also directs his keen powers of observation towards himself; I do at least perceive Roquentin, the lonely and dissatisfied protagonist of Nausea, as some kind of Sartre alter ego, like when he ends up on a park bench, looks around himself and becomes disgusted by life, how empty and meaninglessness it is:

If anyone had asked me what existence was, I would have answered, in good faith, that it was nothing, simply an empty form which was added to external things without changing anything in their nature. And then all of a sudden, there it was, clear as day: existence ha d suddenly unveiled itself. It had lost the harmless look of an abstract category: it was the very paste of things; this root was kneaded into existence. Or rather the root, the park gates, the bench, the sparse grass, all that had vanished: the diversity of things, their individuality, was only an appearance, a veneer. This veneer had melted, leaving soft, monstrous masses, all in disorder—naked, in a frightful, obscene nakedness.

That an awareness of God's death and the futility of existence leads to a personal responsibility for all of humanity may of course be commendable. Nevertheless, I assume Sartre's freedom is not an encouraging affirmation of deliverance; it has a trapped, predisposed tinge to it. According to me, he seems often to have made the wrong conclusions from his own philosophy. Sometimes he flirted with violence and occasionally even defended totalitarianism. Sartre resembles a bit too much his teacher Heidegger, a far from likeable man who made wrong and terrible choices.

In my search for nothingness and compassion, I now turn to Islam instead. Islam? “But that can hardly be considered as a religion promoting openness and speculations about the importance of nothingness,” this is at least an objection I imagine myself to be hearing from some friends of mine. “Isn´t Islam a stalwart, legalistic religion, characterized by a fundamentalist worldview? Islam is the inspiration for atrocities committed by the Islamic State, Boko Haram and the Talibans. If you write with appreciation bout Islam that it may be considered as a defense of the heinous ideology of such terror groups”. If you' state something positive about a religion someone who is prejudiced about it would probably tell you that it is probably only a small minority that nurture such lofty and romantic ideas. In contrast, if you utter a general prejudice, someone who is opinionated will probably interpret what you say as an accurate description of the beliefs of millions of people, including those who do not have any particular faith, but happened to be born in a country that statistically is counted as Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist.

I do not understand why religion has to be distinguished from any other human activity. Any religion tends to be considered as an indivisible whole, a concept set in stone: "All Muslims think and behave in a similar manner, as do Christians and Buddhists." "Islam is evil!" "Islam is a religion of peace!" "Oh, I didn´t know that it was religious tradition and thinking that made you question human rights? I´m so sorry. Please, forgive me; I now understand that I must be careful not to offend you by stating that your opinions are harmful to all of us and that you behave in a crazy manner."

As soon as religion is discussed most of us turn into todologos, sages who know everything, although we may not be religious at all. I would argue that in every religion there is both good and evil, fundamentalism and openness, narrow-minded fanaticism and warm-hearted tolerance. When I write about Sufism it is of course not the whole truth about this creed. Each and every one of us is an individual and we have ideas and convictions of our own. I just intend to emphasize some perceptions that have fascinated me while I was reading about Sufi notions about "nothingness" and I take Shahāda, the Islamic confession of faith, as my point of departure.

The word shahāda means "to observe”, “to bear witness of”, or “to certify" and the confession may be translated as: "There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God". If you in the presence of two confessed Muslim witnesses pronounce these words in Arabic, with heartfelt sincerity and understanding, and without any kind of coercion, you are by most pious Muslims deemed to have converted to Islam.

The Shahāda proclaims God's omnipotence and the Prophet's mission to deliver God's will and message to humankind. The two parts complement each other; the first proclaim the dogma of absolute monotheism (tawhīd) and its all-encompassing reality, the second introduces the Messenger, the Prophet who to the people, in a clear and understandable way, conveyed the truth about the creation and the conditions for preserving it in the best possible manner.

Sufi interpretation of the Shahāda implies that God is the only existing reality, everything else is an illusion. A deeply religious woman or man should rid her/himself from claims to superiority and other exaggerations and become "poor", faqīr in Arabic and darwīsh in Persian, terms that may be used as synonyms for both Şufī and Muslim. The word Muslim means "to be whole, intact" but is usually interpreted in accordance with definitions like the one of the Şufī philosopher Ibn Arabi: “A Muslim is a person who has dedicated his worship exclusively to God... Islam means making one's religion and faith God's alone”, a notion which often has meant that the word “Muslim” generally has been equated with "submission".

By eradicating selfishness, a Muslim may attain knowledge of the truth (al-Haqq) behind existence. If you sincerely acknowledge your slight importance, as well as your weaknesses and dependency on others, you learn to perceive your surroundings in their proper light and realize that God is present in everyone and everything.

According to Sufism, the universe is a manifestation and representation of God.  If we distinguish between God and his creation, we deny God's all-encompassing unity. God is never outside of universe. The universe is a part of him. Thereby we humans are also parts of God. We belong to him. The Şufī Yūnus Emre, who in the thirteenth century became one of the first authors to write in Turkish, and whose image can be seen on Turkish two hundred lira banknotes, wrote:

I didn't know you were the eye inside of me
You were a secret essence both in body and soul
I asked you show me a symbol of you in this world
Suddenly I realized you were the whole universe.

Evil is born out of lack of humility; it is an “impossible possibility", meaning that it is an absurd denial of God's all-encompassing presence in everything and everyone. Performing evil deeds is nothing less than proof of a belief in God's absence, a blasphemy originating in contempt for other creatures. Evil is a negation of virtuousness and since God is identical with love, evil must be opposed wherever it turns up, meaning within yourself as well. God's omnipotence includes everything, even nothingness. Evil is the absence of good and created by man's free will, which is a prerequisite for the love of God. To choose evil is to refute God´s love

You can meet God everywhere in His creation, including within ourselves and it is through humility we discern His presence. Accordingly we cannot not put ourselves in the place of God and judge our fellow men as if we were the Almighty One.

We must also realize that God manifests his presence in accordance with each being's true nature. This means that we cannot force others to adopt our faith, it has to be done in accordance to their own free will and ability. We have to demonstrate tolerance, benevolence and charity towards our neighbor. Since we cannot be certain of God's purposes, other than that he is a loving entity. Accordingly, to be on the safe side, our compassion and charity ought to be as boundless as possible, instead of trying to limit our benevolence.

Restricting compassionate and benign acts removes us from God and brings us closer to evil. We must open ourselves to God's love. A Sufi has stated that "it is only when you feel like a loser that you can experience the infinite", it is not self-loathing he is talking about, but an end to feeling like a superior being, only when you cease to feel like a unique individual you may find the divine within yourself and others. Similar reasoning is reflected in a common Sufi prayer: "O Lord, grant us a state of helplessness, worthlessness and nothingness."

Talking about religion, it is important to consider that like all other human notions religious convictions receive impressions from various sources. Islam and not least Sufism emerged along ancient trade routes, where not only goods but also ideas were exchanged. That would allow for finding traces of Hindu notions in Sufi thoughts, for example the concept of śūnyatā. This notionsuññatā in Pali, may be translated as "emptiness", "invalid" or "transparency". With emptiness is meant a perception that you do not add anything or take anything away from phenomena that already exist. You accept life "as it is," that there is no difference between you and your neighbor, you are one with existence - Tat twam asi, “it is you”, an expression which means that the Atman, i.e. your self-consciousness or the individual soul, is identical with Brahman, the universal soul - The Absolute.

The idea of self-denial as a method to achieve spiritual salvation/liberation and become one with The Whole came to have an even greater significance in Buddhism than in Hinduism. In several of Buddhism´s different branches suññatā have even obtained a kind of existence of its own, a value in itself, especially in its manifestation as anatta, not-self. In Zen Buddhism, it has even become common to depict "nothing" in calligraphy, whereby "nothing" becomes "something".

In such an intellectual environment which regards nothingness as a kind of reality, the concept of zero as a number was developed. Zero came to be regarded not merely as a symbol, or as a marker of empty space that could be used to separate numbers, such as 215 compared to 2015. The first preserved text in which zero is written as a circle, referred to as śūnya, “empty” and used in arithmetic and algebra is Brahmagupta´s book The Opening of Universe from 628 AD.  Brahmagupta also introduced the use of negative numbers and placed zero at the intersection between positive and negative numbers.

That zero was depicted as a circle is probably due to the Hindu use of a circle with a dot in the middle as symbol for the relation between “the self” and Universe. The sign is called bindu, which means “point” and Hindu men and women sometimes paint it on their foreheads as a sign of life and creation, where the dot symbolizes a spermatozoa and the circle an ova. The void between the circle and the point symbolizes nothingness. If the point is removed, the sign becomes an image of emptiness, surrounded by matter, thus – a zero. Accordingly, zero might be regarded as a sign that includes all kind of differences – being, contra non-being – and thus becomes a symbol of totality, a picture of the world soul - Brahman.

The Indian counting system and its numerical designations were adopted by the Arabs and in 1202 Leonardo Bonacci, also known as the Fibonacci, wrote:

After my father's appointment by his homeland [Pisa] as state official in the customs house of Bugia for the Pisan merchants who thronged to it, he took charge; and in view of its future usefulness and convenience, had me in my boyhood come to him and there wanted me to devote myself to and be instructed in the study of calculation for some days. There, following my introduction, as a consequence of marvelous instruction in the art, to the nine digits of the Hindus, the knowledge of the art very much appealed to me before all others.

Fibonacci enthusiastically included the zero in European mathematical systems, though most mathematicians had problems in accepting it. A contributing factor was that Westernized mathematical thinking was indebted to ancient Greek notions about Nature as opposed to emptiness and that numbers could only by used to describe geometrical forms and relations. Which geometrical form and relation could be described by a zero? Emptiness and the zero were considered as threats to the Divine World Order, where everything had its given place and function, maintained and governed by God. It was not until René Descartes in the 17th century introduced the coordinate system that the ingrained aversion against zero began to disappear.

Ancient Greek philosophy was for centuries supported by the Church and the State. It has been said that European sciences developed through repeated attempts to refute the worldview created by the Greeks; where the void did not exist but everything was constituted by the five basic elements of earth, water, air, fire and ether. Among these elements ether was the most evasive. The fifth element was considered to fill the universe that lay beyond the earthly sphere.

Many philosophers believed that the volatile ether, which could not be detected in any pure form on Earth, in fact, was identical with God's creative power, which united and ruled the other elements. If we could find and harness the ether we could maybe also control and even transform the other elements, something astrologers and alchemists for centuries tried to do. The search for the ether can accordingly to certain degree be considered as comparable to modern physics´ search for The Grand Unified Theory (GUT), i.e. a model, system or phenomenon, which could be used to all existing forces into one.

It has been said that the scientific revolution, which beginning in the seventeenth century completely transformed our perception of the world and resulted in enormous changes in our environment, was based on the invention of four mechanical instruments. The microscope, which made it possible for us to explore phenomena in a previously unknown micro cosmos. The telescope, which, in contrast to the microscope is making us make us better acquainted with infinite space. The pendulum clock, which that allowed us to measure time with a previously unknown precision.

And - the vacuum pump. The vacuum pump? In the 1640s, while hunting for ether, two Italians assumed that the elusive element could reveal itself in the absence of the other four basic elements - earth, water, air and fire. By immersing a glass tube filled with mercury in a bowl filled with the same substance, they found that the levels of mercury in the glass tube decreased due to the air pressure and thus left an empty gap inside the upper part of the tube. They had discovered the vacuum, a space that does not contain any matter.

Soon the vacuum pump was invented, which like a reverse bicycle pump could pull air out of a glass container. What was so special about this? Well, the Aristotelian worldview was shattered. Aristotle had, like most scientists before and after him, believed that the void does not really exist. Now we understand that emptiness is present everywhere. That it constitutes the distance between molecules and atoms. The void is thus a prerequisite for creation of energy, movement, which is the basis for all life in the universe. Emptiness generates life; nothing is a prerequisite for anything.

It was when scientists were able to compress matter inside a glass tube that they found the vacuum, emptiness. A flute is also a kind of tube and this brings us back to the Sufis. Translators of the influential poet and philosopher Rumi (1207 - 1273) must tackle Sufi poetry´s symbolic language, as well as the elaborate Persian language. Already the opening lines of Rumi’s long and philosophical poem Masnavi create problems.

Now listen to this reed-flute's deep lament
About the heartache being apart has meant:

 'Since from the reed-bed they uprooted me
My song's expressed each human's agony …

In his book Nothing the music ethnologist Anders Hammarlund suggests that it was not only a flute that Rumi described. The Persian word nay, which Rumi used in his poem, means both "reed" and "reed flute", but also "nothing", or "no one". The introductory verses could thus be interpreted as images of man, music, the infinitely large and the infinitely small, as well as God's all-encompassing greatness and power.

In the poem the reed has been separated from its place in nature and been transformed into an instrument, which when a flute player passes his breath through it emits a melody that expresses human concerns. According to the Islamic Confession of Faith, the Prophet is the mouthpiece God makes use of to deliver his message to us humans. Muhammad is "no one" in the sense that he, like all other people was born as integrated part of God's creation and therefore can be likened to any other "reed" that grows at the water's edge. However, God chose Muhammad to be his instrument. As the shepherd is cutting a reed to transform it into a flute which he will use to transmit his tune to his listeners.

Like the flute, which in its hollow "void" captures the shepherd's breath and transmits it as music, Muhammad caught God´s ruh, spirit/wind, which moves through his entire creation and that God once used to give life to woman and man. From Muhammad's mouth God's spirit and message came forth, like a flute that captures and transmits the flute player's breath and melody. To make the tune as clear as possible, a flute has to be perfectly shaped. Similarly, the Prophet was as perfect as a man could be, and that's why God chose him to be his mouthpiece. Muhammad was not divine, merely a human, just like a reed is a reed, but a reed must have very special qualities to become a good flute.

Music is without meaning, it does not like a language carry a simple message. This is one of the reasons to why music generally is prohibited within mosques. Through the Qur'an, God speaks directly to us and he does it in Arabic, not only the text, but also the sound and shape Qur'anic words thus become holy.  By listening to the sound of the Qur'an and feel the rhythm with which its message is delivered can make us perceive God's presence.

Qur´an recitation, qirā'a, generally means that a reciter (the word al-Qur'an actually means "The Recitation" in Arabic) tries to convey God's words as beautiful and clear as possible. Qur´an recitation eventually became a particular art form, just as beautiful scripture. It eventually led to several highly artificial and mannered ways of performing the written word.  Many connoisseurs came to the mosque not to listen to God's message, but to enjoy the mastery of a skillful reciter.  A poignant performance could bring out the beauty hidden in the word of God, how his rur surrounds and strengthens us. The message was no longer in the understanding, but in the experience, as when Gauguin described the value of his art: "the essence of a work of art, is impalpable and by far, it consists precisely of that which is not produced."

However, several Muslim theologians stated that if the content of the Message revealed by the Qur´an became overshadowed by the emotional charge of music it was in danger of becoming lost. Even if it is not stated in the Qur´an, a common tradition affirms that the Prophet disliked music in connection with worship. Two reasons are usually provided for this opinion, namely that infidels used music in their rituals and that music by numbing the judgment may lead to debauchery.

That music is not allowed in the mosque and has been banned altogether by fanatical Talibans does not mean that it is absent in Islam. On the contrary, every visitor to a Muslim country hears music wherever s/he turns up. The Sufi writer Ibn Khurdādhbih claimed during the tenth century that the fact that music, ghinā, arises out of nothing and that it is not a tangible object truns it into a reflection of God´s  presence within his creation, his rur. According to Ibn Khurdādhbih:

Music sharpens the intellect, it makes man's character more docile and engages the soul. It brings joy and courage to the heart and elation and hope to those who are depressed. It is preferable to speech, just as health is better than disease.

Music is like kun, the primordial light that broke forth from nothing, the life-giving brightness that was born out of darkness. It is also part of God's life-giving breath, which through music enters into our consciousness and conveys meanings that cannot be articulated. A Sufi may like Roquentin in Nausea state that existence´s futility is ever present:

It didn't make sense, the World was everywhere, in front, behind. There had been nothing before it. Nothing. There had never been a moment in which it could not have existed.  

However, by Roquentin such a realization causes disgust:

That was what worried me: of course there was no reason for this flowing larva to exist. But it was impossible for it is not to exist. It was unthinkable: to imagine nothingness you had to be there already, in the midst of the World, eyes wide open and alive; nothingness was only an idea in my head, an existing idea floating in this immensity: this nothingness had not come before existence, it was an existence like any other and appeared after many others. I shouted "filth! What rotten filth!" and shook myself to get rid of this sticky filth, but it held fast and there was so much, tons and tons of existence, endless: I stifled at the depths of this immense weariness.

However, for a true Sufi emptiness and futility become boundlessness; an opening to universe and God. By freeing himself from a limiting self-consciousness a whirling dervish becomes in his circle dance unified with cosmos, while the music raises him far away from everyday constraints. He becomes part of the whole.

As the Spanish poet Jorge Guillen wrote: Ser, nada más. Y basta. Es la absoluta dicha. "To be, no more. And enough with it. It is the absolute happiness," or as it was expressed with even more intensity by the Swedish-Finnish poet Edith Södergran:

What have I to fear? I´m a part of infinity,
I´m part of the great power of Universe,
a lonely world within millions of worlds,
a star of the first degree that will be the last to fade.
Triumph of living, triumph of breathing, triumph of being!
Triumph of feeling time run ice-cold through one’s veins
and of hearing the silent river of the night
and of standing on the mountain under the sun.
I walk on sun, I stand on sun,
I know nothing but sun.

Eisenman, Stephen F. (1997) Gauguin´s Skirt. London: Thames and Hudson. Fabre, Jean Henri (1998) Fabre´s Book on InsectsNew York; Dover Publications. Martin Smith, Grace (1993) The Poetry of Yūnus Emre, A Turkish Sufi Poet. Berkeley: University of California Press. Michon, Jean-Louis and Roger Gaetani (eds.) (2006)  Sufism: Love & Wisdom. Bloomington, Indiana: World Wisdom. Rumi (2004) The Masnavi, Book One translated by Jawid Mojaddedi. New York: Oxford University Press. Sartre, Jean Paul (1964) Nasusea. New York; New Directions. Sartre, Jean Paul (1969) Being and Nothingness.  London: Routledge. Sartre, Jean Paul (1973) Existentialism and Humanism. London: Methuen. Sigler, Laurence (2002) Fibonacci´s Liber abaci: a translation into modern English of Leonardo Pisanos´s Book of Calculation. New York; Springer-Verlag. Webb, Jeremy (2013) New Scientist –Nothing: From absolute zero to cosmic oblivion – amazing insights into nothingness. London: Profile Books.

 

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Litteraturen möter oss någonstans mellan dikt och verklighet. Vi läser inneslutna i oss själva, ser genom de ögon livet skapat oss. Jag tillbringar det mesta av min tid ensam i vårt hus, i skogen vid sjön. Visserligen är jag tre dagar i veckan verksam på en skola i Landskrona, men där känner jag...
I had planned to clear the grounds around our house from twigs and fallen leaves. Accordingly, I went outside quite early in the morning. The sky was bright blue, though it soon became clouded and it did not take long before the rain poured down, preventing my outdoor activities. Back in the...
Jag hade tänkt rensa tomten från kvistar och löv. Gick upp tidigt. I gryningen sken solen och himlen var klarblå, men snart började det skya, det dröjde inte länge förrän regnet öste ner och förhindrade allt utearbete.  Flydde in i huset, gjorde en brasa och drog fram en bok ur hyllan. Det...
The weather changes from cold to relative varmth; sunshine, drizzle, floating clouds and starry nights. Yesterday, a milky white sky occasionally cracked up and turned into a dramatic spectacle when fast-gliding cloud formations allowed the sun, for a minute to two, to illuminate an autumn...
Vädret skiftar från kyla till relativ värme; solsken, duggregn och piskande skyfall. Igår sprack himlen emellanåt upp i dramatiska, snabbt framglidande molnformationer mellan vilka solen under någon minut förgyllde den höstliga prakten kring sjön. Jag öste båten och rodde ut. Kastvindar skapade...
Occasionally, I worry about my bad physical condition and increasing obesity. Do I keep on passing an age limit without really noticing it? Soon it will be difficult for me to bend down, it will be cumbersome to get up from an armchair, days will disappear without leaving much of a trace. I will...
Emellanåt oroar jag mig för dålig kondition och tilltagande fetma. Håller jag på att passera en åldersgräns, utan att märka det? Snart får jag svårt för att böja mig ner, det kommer att kosta på att stiga upp ur fåtöljen, dagarna svinner bort. Jag blir andfådd i trappor, huden skrynklas, håret...
My parents told me that I did not speak until I was more than three years old. This sounds somewhat strange to me, though considering that their children's development is close to heart of most parents, they were probably right. After opening my mouth for the first time to express comprehensible...
Mina föräldrar har berättat att jag inte talade förrän jag var mer än tre år. För mig låter det underligt, men med tanke på att deras barns utveckling står i centrum för de flesta goda föräldrar, så hade de säkert rätt. Märkligt är det dock, eftersom jag efter att ha öppnat munnen för att formulera...
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