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Caretaking the Nullity

It’s a dreadful old business to be drawn into caretaking the nullity. Who would want such a job? Who would want the rotten old job of caretaking the nullity? The whole thing is quite distasteful, as well as being an exercise in futility from beginning to end. It is – despite all the advertising, despite the glossy brochures – a thoroughly grim business, a business that is absolutely guaranteed to end badly!


The trouble is that once we have been drawn into caretaking the nullity then there simply doesn’t seem to be any way out of it. And not only this, once we’re drawn into it then we see everything backwards so that looking after the nullity and furthering its aims to the very best of our ability seems like the very thing we want most to do! Bending over backwards all the time to facilitate the whims of the dreadful old nullity seems like a great idea to us – it seems like a fine idea, the best possible idea of all, in fact. So because looking after the nullity seems like such a great idea we don’t even consider the possibility of pulling out of the job, we never consider what a tremendous blessing it would be not to be acting as full-time care-taker for it…


Once we have been prevailed upon to take on the job of looking after the nullity then there is practically no chance that we will ever be able to see things straight. Everything is seen from ‘the point of view of never questioning the nullity’ and when we see everything from the point of view of never questioning the nullity then the picture of reality we get as a result is a very peculiar one, a very bizarrely distorted one. This is ‘reality according to the point of view of the nullity’ which is actually nothing at all to do with reality and everything to do with how the needs and desires of the nullity and how these needs and desires can be supported by the world! It’s not the world that we see (from the POV of the nullity) but how this world can be exploited. It’s not other people we see (from the POV of the nullity) but how these people can be of use to us. We don’t see the world at all but what the world means to us in terms of the nullity’s voracious and never-ending agendas.


The world we see when we are fully given over to the onerous job of caretaking the nullity is therefore nothing more than that same nullity reflected back at us (although this fact is something that we are quite incapable of appreciating). Because the nullity’s needs and desires are always entirely concrete (and never in the least bit poetical) the world is sees is a concrete one. Everything is rendered in the same drab, utilitarian way – the reality which the nullity inhabits is a concrete one, completely lacking in any trace of poetry or irony. The world which the nullity inhabits is itself, is a projection of its own humourlessly and lack of irony. We could say that the world the nullity inhabits is a projection of its own lack of consciousness, its own lack of awareness – it is the same thing to say this. Being unconscious, the nullity never sees beyond itself. This is why the nullity is a nullity – because it is concrete, because it can never see beyond itself!


Looking out at the world through the eyes of the nullity means that we’re always caught up in its concerns and its concerns are ‘null-concerns’ – there are null-concerns because they are exclusively to do with itself and ‘itself’ doesn’t actually exist. The nullity is a funny old thing and it’s also the type of thing that  we don’t have the capacity to as see a nullity – we can’t see it as the nullity it is because we’re so caught up in it, because we’re far too busy trying to maintain it. If we weren’t so busy with the job of caretaking the nullity we’d see that it really isn’t worth the effort but we’re never given a chance not to be busy, we’re never given a chance not to be preoccupied with its needs and desires. We’re kept on the hop, kept on the run, just about every minute of the day. That’s the whole idea – our noses are kept firmly against the grindstone so that we don’t ever get a chance to think about what we’re doing or why. So whilst the nullity is a very funny kind of a thing when it comes down to it we don’t ever see this – we never see the most obvious thing about the nullity and that is that it IS a nullity! A good definition of the nullity is therefore to say that it is ‘an empty sense of self’ that cannot see that it is empty. Because the nullity cannot see its own emptiness it is driven to enact all sorts of preposterous and nonsensical activities, activities which it (and therefore us) are compelled to take with the utmost seriousness!


The implicit belief of the nullity is that any activity which is carried out on its behalf, for its benefit, is by definition meaningful, is by definition important. If the nullity wants something then it must have it – the logic of the situation is as simple and easy to understand as this! If the nullity were to see that it is a nullity (if the nullity were to see the fact of its own redundancy) then this would of course put a very different complexion on things – anything that is true only because I say it is, meaningful only because I say it is, is not ‘true’ or ‘meaningful’ at all but simply ‘empty’. This however is the one perception that the nullity is guaranteed never to have; the nullity carries on forever in the way it does carry on forever precisely because it has zero capacity to see its own redundancy!  The type of meaning that the nullity takes for granted is simply a wilful distortion that it itself has introduced into the picture, and then refused to take responsibility for – I introduce the distortion then say that it is not a distortion and that I did not introduce it but that it is simply the way things are. The nullity treats the distortion as being ‘the natural order of things’. If we may paraphrase Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann so that their words make sense in this context, we can say that the nullity treats the ‘artificial distortion of the natural order of things’ as


…an opus alienum over which it has no control rather than as the opus proprium of its own productive activity.


Not acknowledging the distortion that I myself have introduced has consequences. I can do this (the nullity can do this) but there are consequences. It is as if I push a child’s swing out as far as it can go – I displace the swing in a ‘positive’ direction and I say that the resultant displacement is a statement which possesses meaning in its own right, meaning of an absolute or ‘self-existent’ nature, rather than being merely an arbitrary distortion or displacement that I myself have introduced into the picture. “My name is Paul Smith” I say or “Determinism is the true doctrine” or “God Exists” or “That’s the way it is” and then I proceed to derive satisfaction from whatever definite statement it is that I have just made. I obtain satisfaction (or vindication) from the statement I have just made because I see it as being absolutely (or ‘independently’) TRUE, rather than seeing it as ‘only being true because I arbitrarily agree to see it as such’…


I can make a positive assertion, I can create a ‘positive reality’, there’s no problem in that. The thing is however that after making it (which is the bit that gives me the sense of satisfaction / security) I am caught because I have to stick around supporting it.  This is the hidden snag in relying on positive statements for security (or relying on them for anything really), and what a snag it is! What we’re talking about here is actually ‘the snag to end all snags’, despite the fact that we’re far too short-sighted ever to spot it at the time. We discover the down-side of our strategy later on, at leisure. We can take our time about discovering it – there’s no hurry…


The very best I can hope for from the situation that I have got myself into (in my hurry to avail of what seemed like ‘free ontological security’) is that I will be able – one way or another – to carry on maintaining the positive statement, the positive reality without any major problems showing themselves. This however requires a constant input of energy which means (as we have already said) that I can’t ever ‘go anywhere’. I’m tied to the job and there is no such thing as taking a holiday or even taking a fifteen-minute coffee break. I’m like Atlas supporting the whole world on his shoulders! Like Atlas, I will grow very tired of the job. Eventually my strength will wane and I will find myself at risk of faltering. Even before this happens however I will find myself in trouble because when I start to become aware (on whatever unconscious or semi-conscious level) of the sheer magnitude of the job that I have unwittingly taken on) the psychological pressure of knowing what kind of a burden it is that I have been saddled with will start to tax me. On some level, I know that I am tied into supporting a position that will not support itself, a position that is for this reason untenable, and this is therefore where what we call anxiety comes into the picture.


Anxiety – we may say – is the first manifestation of the ‘snag’ that we were just talking about, the snag that comes with depending upon positive realities. Positive realities always come with anxiety in tow – to expect otherwise is ridiculous. The (false) ontological security that is provided by the positive reality is one part of the package that we have bought into (the attractive part, we might add) whilst the anxiety which sooner or later shows up on the scene is the other. Anxiety is simply the flip-side of ontological security – on the one hand I feel that I can rely on the positive reality that I am clinging to, and on the other hand I start to suspect (rightly, as it turns out!) that I cannot. One the one hand we have the euphoria that comes when I am sinking into comfortably unconsciousness, and on the other hand we have the painful anxiety that afflicts me when I start to come round from the anaesthetic, when I start to ‘wake up’. The more I enjoy the false security of believing in whatever positive reality I have bought into the more pain I will have to endure as a result of become progressively disillusioned from the fantasy. How could these two things ever be separated? How could we ever be foolish enough to imagine that we could have ‘the sweetness of illusionment’ without later on having to taste ‘the bitterness of disillusionment’?


This brings us to another aspect of ‘the snag associated with the strategy of depending upon a positive reality’. The anxiety that we have just been talking about is where we start to see that we aren’t going to be able to keep on maintaining the positive reality indefinitely. This awareness – no matter how much we try to suppress it (so that we can continue to enjoy the illusion of ontological security) – will in anxiety gradually come to make itself known to us in every aspect of our lives. This is what I mean when I say that ‘anxiety is ruining my life’. And then – following the intimation of trouble ahead – the actual reality of not being able to maintain the PLUS will manifest and cracks will appear in the positive structure that we have been so proud of or so dependent upon. All positive statements will always come back as the negative of themselves – all acts of aggression will eventually rebound upon the aggressor. Going back to our image of the swing, we can say that because I have pushed the swing out it must at some future point come swinging back at me again. It comes back with exactly the same force that I put into it in the first place. The ‘back-swing’ is actually the very same thing as the ‘forward-swing’ – the two can never be separated. The positive assertion is the same thing as the reversal of this positive assertion; the thesis is the same as the antithesis. We’ve gained security, but we’ve also gained (at the same time) the antithesis of security…


If we could see this – if we see that the positive statement is also the ‘rebound’ of that positive statement – then we would no longer be concrete in our outlook. Concrete means that we believe in the existence of a ‘defined reality’ in a simplistic or naive sort of a way, without having any insight into the way in the way the world looks to us is simply a function of our limited way of seeing it. Our way of understanding the world is simplistic, and so too therefore is the world that we believe in and relate to. We are thus ‘things in a world of things’ as Colin Wilson says. We are things in a world of things, things relating to other things, things categorizing other things as being either good or bad, this way or that way, and generally getting very wound up by these relationships as time goes on. And yet the rub is that ‘there isn’t actually any such thing as a thing’! There are no things. ‘From the very beginning not a thing was’. There is an irony in this – by being ‘over-simplistic’ in our approach, we have ended up over-complicating everything!


The situation of being compelled to caretake the nullity is therefore entirely preposterous. The well-known line from Romans 6:23 stating that ‘the wages of sin is death’ is often used by the more fundamentalist type of Christian in order to recruit new followers (by using fear as a motivator) but this is really getting it entirely backwards. The Bible-bashers are – as usual – misunderstanding their own message! The often-repeated line gets interpreted by the nullity based on the erroneous understanding that the nullity is not the nullity but an actual valid concrete reality – that it is the most vitally important concrete reality there is, in fact. The nullity is not seen as being ‘the nullity’ and this is where all the absurdity creeps in. So in this case (the ‘concrete’ case) what ‘the wages of sin is death’ means to us is that if we transgress against the rules that have laid down by God for us to follow then there will be no eternal life for us. We won’t get the reward. Instead of Eternal Life there will be ‘eternal death’ and this is the (very steep) price that we will pay for the transgression…


There is nothing that upsets the nullity more than the thought of the nullity coming to an end, the thought of nullity ‘ceasing to be’, and so ‘eternal death’ is the single scariest threat that the nullity could ever be presented with. But the nullity has got the message all wrong – the same as it gets everything all wrong! This is the most spectacular example of ‘getting something completely wrong’ that there ever could be! The ‘sin’ (if we were to use this word) is to get sucked into caretaking the nullity. That’s where we ‘go wrong’. The ‘wages’ of this sin is that we get drawn into caretaking the nullity on an indefinite basis, with no end in sight. We have fallen under the power of The Terrible Trivium, who is


The Demon of petty tasks and worthless jobs. Monster of habits. Ogre of wasted efforts. And friend to lazy and foolish people everywhere.


The Terrible Trivium has us and he is not about to let us get away again! Why would he? Our unhappy destiny is now to be a full-time slave to the demon of futile tasks and pointless activities and what more ignominious end could there be than this? This is a pit that has no bottom, a pit that there is no climbing out of because the walls have been far too well greased. If I am preoccupied on a full time basis with futile tasks then that makes me futile too. If I am wholly given over to unreal considerations, unreal endeavours, then this makes me equally unreal – I am as unreal as the issues that concern me are unreal. The nullity is ‘the graveyard of consciousness’ – this is its function (inasmuch as it can be said to have a function).


The nullity is terrified at the thought of ‘eternal death’ and greatly desirous of the counter-proposition, which is ‘eternal life’. For the nullity its own eternal life is the most wonderful thing it could ever imagine. It would like to continue itself forever more than it would like anything else. Self-perpetuation is all it wants, really. That’s the bottom line – the nullity would like to live forever. The nullity wants to never die. Herein of course lies the surpassingly great irony – the nullity is itself ‘eternal death’, it just can’t see it. When it desires to continue itself forever it wants to perpetuate the eternal death (the ‘living death’) that is itself. When it fears death, it actually fears life….



Author: Nick Williams

Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.

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