Talk about Nothing

As far as I’m concerned, there are two kinds of Nothings to talk about.

The first occurs where you talk without a purpose, with the intent of talking without a purpose. It’s where you are in person, simply enjoying the company of whoever is around you and conversing freely, without feeling any sort of pressure to reach a point or stick to the topic (there is no topic). This Nothing can be wonderful, because you never know where it will end up. Something beautiful can often come from Nothing. Look at Seinfeld. Look at the universe.

Then there is the Nothing that is accidental. It appears in earnest conversation, when someone is talking to some purpose, trying to reach some point. Eventually you listen to yourself and realize the reactions of your conversation partners, or you force yourself to actually pay attention to what your partners are saying, and suddenly you realize, this is Nothing. We think that we’re talking about something important, but we aren’t.

Of the two Nothings, I prefer the first. Occasionally sprinkling some of that beautiful, simple Nothing into the mix of conversation is relaxing and comfortable. Unfortunately, I am more often than not faced with the second type of Nothing, which becomes overwhelmingly disappointing after too much repetition. I’m not saying that I can never tolerate meaningless conversations. Sometimes, especially with new people, I find them amusing, and I can’t even always recognize them at first. But after a while, when the same person hits you with Nothing in every conversation, it gets hard to handle.

I’m starting to recognize the second Nothing in a lot of the conversations in my life. Some of these conversations are easy to cut out, because I can just avoid the people who produce them and be happier. Others are harder, because they’re coming from friends.
Here’s a fact: everyone has troubles in life, and to each of us, our troubles are important. When you’re faced with a troubling situation, you’re supposed to have people you can turn to, to help you through it. If I’m in trouble, I’m turning to my friends. If my friends can’t understand what I’m talking about (despite thinking that they can), whatever “help” they give me will be a whole lot of Nothing. Oftentimes, it won’t even be help at all, but the conversation will somehow be turned to their personal interests and troubles, all of which will start to sound like Nothing to me. Eventually, I won’t want to talk to them at all, despite their somehow being some of my “closest” friends, and them I’m stuck in a tricky situation.

I can still listen to your problems, but I can’t tell you mine. You can see when I’m upset, and your feelings will be hurt as you recognize that I’m purposefully shutting you out of part of my life. What can I tell you, though? I’m sorry, but I don’t want to talk to you because you don’t understand me, and I think that you can be…shallow.

That’s a deep word to call someone, and one that I try to deny myself into avoiding. The problem with “shallow” is that “ignorant” is not far behind it, and once you’ve labeled someone as both shallow and ignorant it gets hard not to minimize their personal experiences. I have just recognized that everyone has their own problems, and I still want to be there for anyone who needs help. I still want to take people seriously, because that’s a respect that everyone deserves but not everyone receives. It’s just harder to do this when I know that (not entirely through anyone’s fault) I am not completely receiving it myself. If the people I go to have Nothing to offer me, I’m almost worse off than I was before (if you haven’t read Why I Go Crazy Sometimes, I’d suggest that you brace yourself and then do it, at least to better understand where I’m coming from).

I don’t want to become some pretentious hipster who condescendingly thinks that everyone is shallow and no one “gets” me, because then I’d be an asshole. Also, I’ve noticed that a lot of hipsters talk about Nothing more than the people they condescend to. Not only would I be an asshole, I’d be a hypocrite. So I have to find a way to still fully appreciate the people in my life, while accepting that some of them will be giving me Nothing, finding the ones who will give me Something, and making sure that I don’t reproduce Nothingness in my own dealings. It looks to be a sad, challenging undertaking, and I’ll probably lose some people along the way. Ideas?


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