(This is the final, last, terminal post in the series of 26 I began on April 3. Each post has centered on a topic suggested by the next letter of the alphabet from the previous post. The posts have all had to do, directly or indirectly, with teaching and learning.)
Too much of nothing can make a man feel ill at ease
One mans's temper might rise, while another man's temper might freeze
In the day of confession, we cannot mock the soul
When there's too much of nothing, no one has control... (Dylan)
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is. (Wallace Stevens)
Here goes nothing... (American idiom)
Nothing is what we start with. Silence. The empty page. The empty canvas. The day in front of us. It is the emptiness into which we insert ourselves: we make a noise, we try a word, we make a mark, we rise. Nothing is the necessary precondition, the ground out of which something becomes manifest. It doesn't matter whether the moment of emptiness is primordial or earned, arrived at only after the completion everything else one has had it in mind to do. What matters is that we find ourselves in a position to begin again. Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.
By way of closing off this series of posts, I'd like to offer one of my favorite poems, by Grace Butcher, which appears in the Best American Poetry 2000, edited by Rita Dove. It tells a story, a fable of sorts, about a crow who, like me at this moment, like all the rest of us all the time, is at the end of something, and at the beginning of something. What I like most about this poem is the way it builds to the last four lines, where something altogether remarkable and well, inspiring happens.
Crow is Walking
Crow is walking
to see things at ground level,
the landscape as new under his feet
as the air is old under his wings.
He leaves the dead rabbit waiting—
it's a given; it'll always be there—
and walks on down the dirt road,
admires the pebbles,
how they sparkle in the sun;
checks out his reflection
in a puddle full of sky
which reminds him
of where he's supposed to be,
but he's beginning to like
the way the muscles move in his legs
and the way his wings feel so comfortable
folded back and resting.
He thinks he might be beautiful,
the sun lighting his back
with purple and green.
Faint voices from somewhere far ahead
roll like dust down the road towards him.
He hurries a little.
His tongue moves in his mouth;
legends of language move in his mind.
His beak opens.
He tries a word.