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among the Arabs, the Chinese and the Indians, nothingness was a concept to be embraced and celebrated. rather than sweep Nothing away under the carpet as a philosophical embarrassment, Islamic artists simply saw the void as a challenging emptiness to be filled. and so they covered every available surface on their temples with intricate geometric patterns, literally paying homage to the void. Buddhists too have a deep respect for the void, seeing in nothingness the ultimate reality and aiming with their contemplative practices to experience the true reality of nonbeing.

perhaps no one has embraced nothing as strongly as the Indians who never had a fear of the infinite or of the void. Hinduism has embedded within it, a complex philosophy of nothingness, seeing everything in the world as arising from the pregnant void, known as Sunya. the ultimate goal of the Hindu was to free himself from the endless cycle of pain found in continual reincarnation and reconnect with the Nothingness that is the source and fundament of the All. for Indians, the void of Sunya was the very font of all potential; nothingness was liberation. no surprise then that it is from this sophisticated culture that we inherit the mathematical analog of nothing, zero. like Sunya, zero is a kind of place holder, a symbol signifying a pregnant space where any other number might potentially reside. the earliest known example of zero appears in a Jain manuscript on cosmology from AD 458, though indirect evidence suggests it must have been in use in India as early as 200 BC. in the 7th century after Christ, the Indian astronomer Brahmaghupta formally defined zero and spelled out the algebraic rules for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing with it. yet the West was appalled by this enigmatic symbol when European scholars first encountered it via the Arab world. how could you signify nothing? to do so was to acknowledge its existence, the very position early medieval thinkers had so sought to avoid.

- based on a text by Margaret Wertheim


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foreningen av ingenting -  association of nothing
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foreningen av ingenting -  association of nothing

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