Culture vulture

Happy new year!
That’s right, folks, the Chico News & Review is entering a new year of publication, its 29th, to be exact. Of course, it will take 52 issues to actually reach the beginning of its 29th year, but we’ll call all 52 of them volume 29. In the periodical biz you start counting at one rather than zero.

Which is sort of cool, reality-wise. Who needs zero anyway? If you’ve got zero quantity of something, that something, whatever it is, doesn’t actually exist. And if something doesn’t exist it’s really not worth worrying about, is it?

Once you start thinking in terms of giving the total absence of something a numerical value, rationality becomes abstract rather than actual. Regret based on lack of something that doesn’t exist is particularly poignant, and particularly irrational.

The statement, I am sad because I have zero amount of (fill in blank), is a simple misdirection of rational desire. What one actually means when uttering such a statement is, I know that some quantity of (fill in blank) exists, and I want some of it. Desire is based, in other words, on existence, not nothingness.

There are those who find zero value in such philosophical distractions, but they are balanced out by those of us who believe that nothing is something worth talking about, mostly because it’s conspicuous by its absence.

That was a year, or was it?
At least it’s behind us now. The past is a shimmering illusion fading into memory, abstraction and not quite nothingness. We know, or at least are pretty sure, it existed, because we remember (some of) it. But the past is much like the concept of zero; we use it to explain that which is actually present. Which is where the recording of history comes into play. In the pre-electronic, pre-photographic age everything verbal that was to be recorded had to be written down, and we all know that the written record is unreliable by its very nature, because writing not only necessitates a variety of interpretations, it makes refutation much easier. A person who doesn’t like what he was quoted as saying can simply say, “I was misquoted,” and cast any argument into doubt. But a person who was recorded on videotape saying something can only say, “I didn’t mean that,” if he wants to refute his own earlier statement. Thus weakening his credibility.

For instance, a president who is recorded on videotape saying that he will fire anyone in his administration who is associated with leaking the name of a CIA agent cannot just deny he ever made such a statement; he has to reformulate it to say he would fire anyone involved in a criminal act and pretend that that’s what he meant all along. Nothing that a person stuck in such a predicament can say will convince me that he or she is not lying—trying to make me believe that something that never happened is the truth. I have zero respect and a minimum of sympathy for such liars.

For more about nothing:

“Nothing Is Easy,” Jethro Tull

“Nothing’s Shocking,” Jane’s Addiction

“Love Minus Zero/No Limit,” Bob Dylan

Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre