But what is the nothing?

The teacher talked with enthusiasm and vigorous gestures. She was telling her class, a bunch of young schoolchildren, about the universe.

“It is expanding,” she said. “Imagine… a dough with raisins in it. When the dough rises the raisins all get further apart, right? The star systems are like those raisins, pushed further and further away from each other as the universe itself gets bigger.”

As she spoke I saw the image of an expanding universe dough in my mind, I always did have a very visual mind. My hand shot up quickly for a question.

“If the raisins are the stars, what’s the dough?” I asked.

“The universe itself, you see…,” the teacher tried to explain, starting over to once more explain the analogy.

I shook my head.

“No, I understand that. But what is the dough? The in between?”

The teacher was starting to look confused.

“It’s nothing.”

“But what is the nothing?” I insisted. Not to put her in the spot, I was genuinely and thoroughly interested.

“The nothing?” the teacher tried to explain, lost for words. “It’s nothing, it’s empty.”

“But what is the nothing?”

My question was too hard to put into words, and I could see it was just confusing the teacher, so I gave up. The memory of it popped into my mind last night, the question I asked. It’s hard even today to put it into words.

Child-Me wondered about the fabric of reality. Even empty space is space. If empty space was nothing it would not exist. But if it lies in between something that does exist, and even grows larger, then it does exist. So it must be something. Nothing that exists is truly nothing. Reality exists even when it is filled with emptiness. What is reality?

I sat back in by chair, frustrated that the teacher just thought I didn’t understand the analogy. Even more frustrated that I couldn’t put my question into words she would understand. That the question might not have a good answer didn’t strike me, up until then school was a place for answers, the teacher knew all. The realization that no, the teacher didn’t know all, was unsettling. But I wanted to know!


3 thoughts on “But what is the nothing?

  1. The most terrifying thought I ever had was imagining the universe never existed. I dont just mean empty space, or nothingness, but the fact it never existed at all, nothing ever existed, or would exist.


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