November 20, 2017 | Rome, Italy | °C

The Sheer Impossibility of Nothingness

By Joseph Patrick Pascale
Published: 2015-09-24

"But that's an absurd proposition you want me to accept," I shot back in my foolishness. "We know of no true nothingness. Even a quantum vacuum is very much a something. The idea of a world of nothing has no basis in reality. As far as I can tell, the universe has to contain something."

As I opened my eyes to the blue-green blur of a cold, spring day, baseball players I didn't know hoisting me by the shoulders in the direction of the medical office, I realized that the God I'd rejected as superstitious mumbo-jumbo when slamming my door in the face of Jehovah's Witnesses needed to be very much a real consideration in dissecting the mystery of how something came to exist instead of nothing. The laws of this universe failed to explain how those first particles could have manifested and begun to expand when there was absolutely nothing to create them with. Only a supernatural explanation seemed viable.

The dread of this enigma consumed my very being that semester. Krisna and I spent days in the library, scouring every philosophical and theological text related to the creation of the universe. To fill in the gaps, we'd spend late nights in the two-floor bookstore a few blocks from campus, stealing words with our eyes, and apologetically repaying them by purchasing cups of coffee from their cafι. We'd clog up the philosophy aisle for hours, stacks of books piled around us, loose paper from our notes intermingling together with a sketchy timeline that began with Parmenides and continued through Hegel's, "The Absolute is Becoming." Whenever they kicked us out at midnight, we'd spend another couple of hours at our campus' all-night cafeteria, downloading seminal metaphysical texts that we couldn't find anyplace else. Yet research as assiduously as we could, we merely found a variety of ideas and opinions. There was precious little in the vein of facts or observations.

I still remember the last time I ever saw Krisna — the final day of class. Even then, when all the other students expected to simply hand in their final paper and move on with their lives, she debated me more ardently than ever. But I was feeling contemplative, and I conceded her assertions with vague nods. The question had devoured every cell of certainty that had existed in my brain. I worried that we existed as a random chance of forces beyond our comprehension. It suddenly seemed that she was only disagreeing with me in an effort to regain my attention, but my attention was now on nothing. I feared that the universe could have been nothing, maybe even should have been nothing. I remember offhandedly wishing her a safe flight home as I stood up from my desk. I shuffled out of the classroom, looking everywhere for a clue about nothingness — walking out into my life and continuing the search.

Krisna had insisted that there couldn't have always been something — that there had to be a moment when the switch from nothing to something occurred. I didn't agree with her until the moonlit night behind her dorm when Krisna kissed me for the first time, and I understood creation ex nihilo.

A passion of fury and lust glistened in her eyes, but seconds earlier that kiss did not exist - the kiss was nothingness at that time. In an explosive instant, our lips connected, creating a universe of planets, stars, and creatures that lasted for eons. If you were a creature on the planet that existed in the smallest corner, of the tiniest crease where Krisna's perfect lips met my own, you'd have no conception that your universe extended all the way to the back of our tongues. The knowledge that an even infinitely larger universe existed outside the cave of our mouths, and followed different rules than one created by a young couple that'd had a little too much wine and argument over dinner, would be beyond your realm of comprehension. But you'd be dead long before your universe cracked apart forever, with the separation of our kiss.

— Joseph Patrick Pascale's fiction has been published in Birkensnake, Literary Orphans, 365 Tomorrows, and On a Narrow Windowsill: Fiction and Poetry Folded onto Twitter, among other journals and anthologies. He earned his master's degree in literature from Centenary College, studying under poet Mark Doty. He worked as a farmhand, reporter, auto parts deliverer, and reference book editor before becoming educator.

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