We Are Afraid of Nothing

josef.stuefer
josef.stuefer

What am I afraid of? Nothing.

I’m afraid of nothing happening, of all that is and that was and that could be sinking inexplicably into the abyss of nonexistence. Of nothing, of the lack that it implies and embodies and entails so effortlessly, because that is precisely what nothing is. Effortless.

I’m afraid of dropping off, of one minute walking on solid ground, so certain that there will be more and more road outstretched ahead and beyond only to suddenly take the step that sends my body flailing in midair down a vast and bottomless expanse of nothing. Because suddenly, unexpectedly, there was simply no ground below. There was no pavement to catch that one additional step, to propel the walking shoe one more inch of the way forward.

Sometimes nothing can feel like falling, and as you mesh with the acceleration of gravity and become one with the primordial descent that is uncertainty, you don’t know if or when there will ever be ground again – if or when you will walk again assured that something is in front of you. All you know for certain is that you may never again trust that there will be cement under your ambitious feet. You will never again take it for granted. You will always assume that to think about cement – to think about being spared that abrupt and restless decline – would be thinking too far ahead.

Nothing is regression, but regression isn’t nothing. I’m talking about the way we can be one moment so confident in what lies before us, of what we hold in a place so certain and so close as in our very hands.

Mine. And how quickly it can be taken away.

Nothing is unapologetic. It doesn’t explain why it is suddenly gone or had to step out in the middle of the night when all was quiet and the streets were dark, never to return again. Nothing doesn’t leave a ransom note scrawled nervously on the kitchen table to be found at sunrise, perused and pored over like a cup of lukewarm coffee with the morning paper.

Nothing doesn’t leave a trail of crumbs or a string of clues behind it when it flees, but don’t for a second underestimate the time you’ll spend putting together the pieces, trying to force square pegs into circle holes like a mismatched jigsaw puzzle that was never designed to form a complete picture, hoping that by the grace of God you can make everything make sense. Maybe this is the piece that will reveal the identity of the whole. Was it ever supposed to make sense?

Nothing is the sort of absence that somehow weighs more than all things present in the world piled atop each other on the same scale. Nothing is the vacuum that sucks the air from the lungs of humanity. But we needed that air to breathe. Nothing can be downright suffocating.

Nothing, if placed gently on the surface of water, would quietly sink because of its density. But we wouldn’t see it. Because there would be nothing there. Nothing is so dense that sometimes it makes us wonder if we will ever be able to cut through its thickness to the other side.

But in carefully examining nothing, we may eventually come to feel like we know the answers. Like we are more prepared for what is to come because we have had our minds boggled by the enigma that is the blank sheet of paper, the clean slate. Nothing is quietude when we would prefer to be drowned out by noise, and perhaps even when we least desire it, nothing is what gives us time to pause for a moment and think.

They say fear is of the mind, but we are terribly afraid of nothing.

And if you ask me, rightly so. TC mark

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