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Configuring the Varieties of Experiential Nothingness


Introduction
Varieties and dimensions of experiential nothingness
Comments on experiential nothingness and somethingness
Experimental configuration of nothingness as an "eightfold way"
Conclusion
References

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Introduction

This is a further exploration of a possible reframing of cognitive despair in the face of the outcomes of highly questionable strategic initiatives, past, present and as currently envisaged. The despair is necessarily both planet-wide and highly personal (Implication of Personal Despair in Planetary Despair, 2010). The condition can be described as a form of cognitive "ground zero" -- a sense of pointlessness notably articulated through recognition that the future offers "nothing", especially for those reduced to "nothing" by a combination of factors, as separately discussed (Reintegration of a Remaindered World, 2011; Way Round Cognitive Ground Zero and Pointlessness, 2012). This forms part of a more general discussion, where relevant references are located (Way Round Cognitive Ground Zero and Pointlessness: embodying the geometry of fundamental cognitive dynamics, 2012; see alternative table of contents).

Curiously, at a time when many are faced with the experience of some form of "nothing", physicists are giving increased recognition to the fundamental role of "nothing" in relation to cosmology and the emergence of "everything" (Lawrence Krauss, A Universe from Nothing: why there is something rather than nothing, 2011; John D. Barrow, The Book of Nothing: vacuums, voids, and the latest ideas about the origins of the universe, 2002). The integrative implications are separately discussed (Fundamental integrative role of nothing -- the ultimate remainder?, 2011). For Krauss, space and time come from "nothing", understood as an extremely unstable state from which the production of "something" is virtually inevitable. A major meeting of physicists and cosmologists highlighted unresolved issues in that respect (Lisa Grossman, Death of the Eternal Cosmos, New Scientist, 14 January 2012).

The paradox of the times is strangely "embodied" in the person of the world's premier cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, tragically afflicted by an incurable disease since the age of 21. His early death was then predicted by specialists, although he has inexplicably survived to the age of 70. Professionally Hawking has striven to demonstrate the emergence of the universe from "nothing" and the absence of any requirement for a "creator". Personally he has necessarily been confronted on a daily basis with the threat of an anticipated cognitive dissolution into "nothingness", given his worldview. Due to illness, he was absent from the meeting of physicists on his recent 70th birthday to discuss "nothing" in celebration of his achievements in that respect (Stephen Hawking misses 70th birthday celebration following hospitalization, 8 January 2012). As with the majority of those in his discipline, he has "nothing" to offer those faced like himself with "nothingness". In response to the "nothingness" faced by humanity, Hawking has famously recommended leaving the planet (Stephen Hawking: mankind must move to outer space within a century, The Telegraph, 9 August 2010; Stephen Hawking: Colonize Space or End the Human Race Yahoo! Contributor Network, 8 January 2012).

Given such serious attention to the engendering power of "nothing" by astrophysicists, it might be asked why so little insight of this quality translates into new understanding of the engendering power of the "nothing" which individuals and groups experience so tragically worldwide. The question here is the nature of the empowerment brought to light by these circumstances. Is there scope for more than what might be described as "palliative care" of a tragically dying civilization and of those condemned to experience its death throes? (Conceptual Ground Zero: empowerment declaration, 2002)

In attributing a key role to "nothing", the radical rethinking achieved by physics is held to have been inspired by "dreams" (Stephen Hawking  (Ed.), The Dreams That Stuff Is Made Of: the most astounding papers of quantum physics -- and how they shook the scientific world, 2011). What then of the nature of the "dreams" of those faced with "nothing" in their own lives? What is the cognitive "stuff" thereby engendered? What of the much-deprecated Dreamtime of the Australian Aborigines inspired by the emprtiness of the desert -- as with the Desert Fathers? How might the world of governance be fruitfully "shaken"?

This articulation follows from a previous exercise (Responsibility for Global Governance: Who? Where? When? How? Why? Which? What? 2008) in the light of another (Where There is No Time and Nothing Matters, 2009). The latter drew attention to the process of "mattering" (Import of Nothingness and Emptiness through Happening and Mattering, 2009). With respect to the experience of boredom, this relates to the challenge of having "nothing to do" -- especially as experienced by both the young and the elderly.

As explored here, a potentially fruitful way of engaging with the disparate experiences of "nothing" is to consider patterns through which these may be configured -- notably patterns offering mnemonic associations to integrative symbols which continue to be active in cultural memory and a focus of long-term consideration of the implied paradoxes.


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