This I Believe

Robert - Oakland, California
Entered on April 23, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe in nothing.

My belief in nothing is not nihilism – which the current Wikipedia entry describes as “a philosophical position which argues that the world, especially past and current human existence, is without objective meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value.” For a long time, I held onto a personal nihilism that was a kind of grievance that could never be assuaged: I never asked to be born but here I am, expected to love life and the people in my life, even though at any moment life could be taken and people could betray me. I concluded the rules of life were a cruel joke, so my solution – unconscious at the time – was to appear to play this game while keeping an essential part of myself on the bench. I went to college and law school, acquired a career and a marriage, became a father of two loving girls, while daily and secretly I drank to disappear into a hidden oblivion. Until my wife told me – rightly – that I had to leave because of the harm I was causing to our children, to her and to myself.

I solved my immediate need for a place to sleep by checking into an in-patient rehabilitation center. Late one night after about two weeks there, a simple insight came to me out of nowhere: nothing was stopping me from honestly giving or accepting my own love, nothing except me. Immediately, I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom that was perhaps the beginning of my belief in the power of nothing. My life since is a spiritual journey about learning how to get out of my own way. The power of nothing is strong, so everyday I work to be honest with myself, to make the love real. The rules of the game haven’t changed, but at least I no longer sit on the bench with the obsession to drink myself into nothingness.

If God exists, I believe he is nothing – found in the presence of absence, the emptiness of space and the fleetingness of time. For me, living and dying seem to be the same. Some of us just happen to be dying more quickly; each of us with our own experience of living and dying. I believe in our utter mortality, in the gift of death that makes each moment of life precious. I hope to be fully alive at the moment of my death, so I accept each moment as fully as I can.

Perhaps the opposite of love is not hate, but a fear that lies beneath hate. Perhaps love is an ongoing turning towards and fear is an ever-present turning away. Perhaps both are essential movements. And perhaps the freedom that comes with letting go is the same as holding onto nothing. So, I believe in the sweet sound of the tree falling silently in a seemingly empty wood. I believe that I am that anonymous tree. I believe that you are too. What do you hear?