As is customary for me, I went down to the desert for Thanksgiving. Usually I go hiking and spend a lot of time outside, but sadly it snowed a lot, causing the top layer of dirt to become mud, and trapping me inside a cabin with ten adults and four toddlers. So I split my time standing outside in the snow, to escape from the noise, and reading about South American religion, to distract from the noise. So I had time to think.
My big book O South American religion started, naturally, at the beginning. But the author was insistant in pointing out that while some begin with nothing, which is subsequently populated with the world by a supreme being, many do not. Some traditions don't address the question of where we came from at all. This started me wondering about the Big Bang theory, and whether the scientists who developed it would have thought up something else if they weren't so ingrained with the idea of something coming from nothing. And if that theory would have been supported by different evidence. But I quickly abandoned that, because I know shit-all about the BBT and I wasn't anywhere near a place to look it up.
Then I started thinking about nothing. The concept. The fact that, although it is completely impossible for a person to experience nothing (because the act of experiencing would create something), it's still there. The idea. It's not darkness, it's not quiet, it's not flatness, it's...nothing. The closest we can come is during sleep, when time ceases to exist, and the physical world falls away. All that's left is dreams, which, even if remembered, make no sense. It can be argued that it's because dreams are merely the product of percolating brain juices, but I prefer to think that it's because dreams occur in a completely different universe, where time and space do not exist.
Let me back up.
Many animals possess persistant spacial memory. Squirrels, for example, depend on being able to remember where they stashed their loot. Humans possess this talent in glorified truckloads. Humans remember places. They remember the names of places. And, especially, importantly, they remember places they haven't even been. Humans remember things that happened, and try to pre-remember things that will happen. Humans weave an entire world, an entire universe, all tangled up with meaning and significance, overlaid over the rocks and sticks of the planet. The very act of being conscious and observing things creates more and more layers, some shared, some unique, which all make up the tiny microcosm of the mind. A teeny, tiny bit of the universe--but a fractal bit. A subset. Limited only by scale. And what is left when you fall asleep and let go of the larger set? Just yourself. And what makes it still the same when you wake up? Your memory, stubbornly insisting that today will be like yesterday, and the day before...