We use the term nothing to mean nothing in particular, when we don’t want someone to judge a thing either this way or that way, similar to the way we say something is meaningless or nonsense.

Zen Circle Caligraphy Painting

Just as every space and absence is not perfectly empty, every thing we declare to be ‘nothing’ could be judged, but we say it is nothing when we don’t want others to judge or nothing will come from the judgement.

We use the word both genuinely and as a cover, when we think there is nothing worth judging, or when we do not want others to judge when we know they well would.  Sometimes we genuinely think a thing is unimportant, and other times we hope that others will not think that it is important, afraid that they will, like a child, asked what they are doing, who hollers back, “NOTHING!”, terrified.

zen screen lakeWhen things are unimportant, when they are “nothing”, they are neither good nor bad much at all.  When things are important, we have to judge whether they are good or bad, or both in various ways.  Most of the time we say things are nothing, we mean or hope they are unimportant.  At other times, when thinking about death or the future, the nothing that lies just beyond the horizon is important and imposing, but we cannot judge it, even if we want to.  In both cases, when nothing is important or unimportant, it is that which cannot or should not be judged, that which judgement cannot or will not grasp.