The First Time I Ever Thought About Nothing

It’s strange how memory works, isn’t it? The way our mind categorizes and orders our experiences.  It’s like our recollection factory is run by a tiny dictator who decides what’s important enough to archive between what gets tossed on the pyre. All based on arbitrary rules.

Your first, real birthday party? Gone. Just a camera lens smeared with petroleum jelly. Or how about High School Graduation? Seems important enough. Yet when you try to bring it up on the DVR on that hidden TV in your mind, the whole things is a staticy, fuzzy mess, not to mention the after graduation get-together with your friends which is not listed under a page displaying a 404 Error. Not because it was  fun or because you got so blasted and annihilated that you can’t remember, but because the little dictator said it wasn’t worth the hard drive space.

Oh, but that time you were 18, still living at home, excited to finally get caught up to the modern world when your Mom brought home the family’s first  computer, and later that night, when she was fast asleep, and you, being young and male and finally having internet access, snuck out to embrace the lustful glow of the CRT monitor in the blackened house, not a sound being made but for the pumping rustle of hand-over-boxers contact. And then “Ben?” You were jolted from your filthy deed by the sound of your mother, half-asleep, standing behind you.  And although she so gummed up in the gears due to sleep (and not wearing her glasses) that she just gave a you a friendly pat on the shoulders as she made her way past the computer in the living room to go to the bathroom, soon to forget the interaction, let the dictator that runs her  brain hit that delete button, for you the memory will be ingrained in 1080p HD for the rest of your foreseeable life.

Why? You might be inclined to (logically) assume it’s because it was a moment of extreme embarrassment, and that those things tend to sear into ones permanent photo album.  I’d been “caught” many times before that, under worse circumstances.

But that time at age 18 when my mother was too sleepy to even know what was happening much less remember it the next day is clearer than them all.

And, again, why?

Because the fickle little dictator said so.

So what’s the point of this post?

Well today I was remembering a memory. Something the dictator decided to save. Something I pray won’t get deleted over the years.

And what was this memory of? The one I hope I never forget?

Nothing.

Actual nothing.

Like the complete absence of anything.

Non-existence.

Zilch.

Nada.

Oblivion.

You get the point.

This is a recent photo of nothing as imagined by police sketch artists.

I clearly remember the day. It was before class and I had a 45 min drive to the University I attended that was located in the nearest city about 50 miles out. I was getting into my blue and white 1985 Ford Ranger, a gift from my grandmother on my 17th birthday, when suddenly it struck me: Nothing.

Now that may not seem like much to you, the concept of nothing, but it sure did to me. See, I had been raised in a town of about 2000 people in the South, so to say it was a religious environment would be like saying people from the North Pole are into coats. Though my parents were not particularly religious (we never went to church on Sunday) is was still impossible to escape the village’s rearing techniques. I had always believed there was a God, that he loved me, and that there was a plan. That before my birth I still existed, or was at least planning to exist, planned. After death there would be Heaven, Hell, or something Else. But the one thing I couldn’t conceive of was that there was nothing.

That was, until the day I sat in my truck and the thought revealed itself. Nothing.  The notion terrified me to my core. It only lasted a second. But, like a brief flash of violence spliced into a Disney flick a-la Fight Club the image made it’s mark. That was the moment I decided to allow myself to consider that nothing was a possibility. That nothing could very well in fact be real. And that it was waiting for me.

I still think about the nothing from time to time. Some days, like those days where everything is going right, when you’re on your upswing, and the world seems open and full of possibilities; the nothing terrifies me.

Others days, when the depression comes, the doubt, the anxiety, the creeping tar that wants to swallow every reason I have to live up in is hermetic museum of failures; that’s when the nothing calms me, soothes me.

Either way it haunts. Changes me. Causes me to question things. Accept others.

So in memory of that day, I’m taking this opportunity to remember nothing.

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