Allister had always been fascinated with nothing-that something was something and nothing was nothing and in between was no other step. Yet, the line where one leaped so completely into the other was so miniscule, so impossibly invisible to all senses that it baffled. How did something become something in the first place? From nothing? And where did something return into nothing?
Allister, at times, wondered if he had been here before. He could, for instance, sometimes picture himself near Socrates when he made the decision to peacefully swallow the hemlock-not, of course, in human form. For, that moment was for that man alone. But, Allister could feel himself there, perhaps as bench or some long-forgotten brick. And without, eyes to see, Allister could feel the moment the man’s eyes shut. The moment Socrates decided to turn his powerful mind off, to adhere simply to the jury, to make his thoughts/his breath disappear. For good? For bad? He was gone.
And Allister would fold the paper in his pocket-so small already-and yet, not gone. It was still there-so tiny. In latter years, the paper was so tiny that one could scarcely see it on Allister’s finger tip-the folds so precise, the paper compressed into itself so tight that it still carried the weight, but lacked the size to prove it. And, if you put this speck of seeming nothing under a microscope, you would see that it was indeed something.
In those simple folds, those compressions and creases of a single piece of paper, Allister attempted to find the place where the two met-where something faded into nothing. And he wondered if it ever did. Did Socrates disappear with his breath? Did his breath disappear at all? Was it still coasting through the breeze, whispering in listening ears? Was something, in itself, nothing? Was nothing, in itself, something?
And yet, one could-as a human-understand the birth of an idea and the loss of an idea. How it springs from nowhere, how inspiration rises from not ashes but from absences. And how it seemingly disappears just as quickly-only to rise again when least expected. The questions come with answers and the answers with questions. And sometimes one’s contribution to a new idea is just the thought that that idea is possible. Sometimes we will see no more than that in our lifetime.
Allister folded so small, so tiny, that it seemed as though the piece of paper did, indeed, truly disappear into nothing. Allister could feel it on his finger tip and he would show us all. He would put his finger underneath a light so close and we would squint and look so hard that migraines were born. And we would see nothing. But, of course, we did not always have a microscope at hand.