Features » You Cannot Be Serious!
YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS - Nothing to write home about
Bernie Comaskey / 2011-02-11 09:29:52
I have lived in dread of this day since “the pull” got me the job. I imagine that most real hacks exist in at least some degree of a Limbo-like fear that they will wake up some morning to a day like this. Guess I had better come right out and say it:
This week's column is in the balance. I sit at a kitchen table in Spain while everyone else is out there enjoying themselves. My sense of failure is equalled only by what I anticipate will be the corresponding glee of discerning readers who flick past my page. Truth is, I have nothing in my head to write. It's deadline time in Mullingar: An editor glares at the “inbox” on her computer, her fingers drumming impatiently on the desk, periodically glancing impatiently at the grandfather clock; while a thousand miles away, I stare at a blank page and eat a pencil - with nothing to write. Nothing to write home about: Blank screen in Mullingar, blank page in La Zenia … and nothing! Nothing in the mind, which starts to wander and then I ask myself, what is nothing? Is nothing something? I go and root out my dog-eared dictionary to see if I can ascertain what is nothing. 'Nothing', according to Chamber's Mini Dictionary, is “no thing”, “not anything”, “nought or something of no importance..” Now, hold on a sec and read that last bit back to me: “Something of no importance”? Does that not mean that nothing is, after all, something? If I just think about nothing – even through no fault of my own other than lacking in whatever it takes, am I not then turning nothing into something? In fact, it looks to me like nothing could be everything, if you apply it to this columnist thinking of having nothing to write for this week's article. Nothing may not be anything until you dwell on it, which turns it into something.
Could it be that there is no such thing as nothing? You go to pour a cup of tea but find that “there is nothing in the pot.” Not so, dear reader: Even if there aren't any tea or tea-leaves, there is air. And air contains an unbelievable amount of atoms and molecules – not to mention nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, water vapour and all sorts of other chemicals. The pot is full of something – even though 'there in nothing in the pot'? Maybe in outer space there is nothing? Find a section of space that contains zero atoms and a perfect vacuum: This has to be an approximation of nothing … but because I am now thinking about it, does that not make it something?
A real nothing would be nothing at all. Presumably, before God made the world it was a nothing? Where then was this nothing? And if someone can tell us how this nothing existed, well then, wasn't it something?
I do know what nothing is sometimes: It was the nought they used write after Westmeath on the Leinster scroll of honour prior to 2004. When I was asked in a TV interview after the final what the victory meant to me, I replied; “There will never be a duck-egg, a nought, a nothing written after Westmeath, ever again. Another story of 'nothing' was once told to me by my good Cork friend, Brian Kearney: The great Cork goalkeeper, Paddy Barry was sent off in the course of playing his last match for Cork in 1974. In exasperation, when a goal dribbled past him, Barry threw his hurley and accidentally hit the umpire; for which the referee immediately sent him off. “I did nothing”, he wailed to County Secretary, Jack Barrett, as he reached the line– who responded with this gem: “I know you did nothing: You know you did nothing … but why did you do it?”! As far back as national school days, “nothing”, was the standard answer to being asked what you were doing. Rubbing ink, or spit, which felt the same as ink on the back of the neck of the kid in the desk in front of you. “What are you at, Comaskey”? “Nothing Sir.” “Come up here and I'll give you a bit of “nothing””! But I digress: Lads, are you made to feel guilty by being accused of doing nothing around the house? Tell her next time that this column has established that there is no such thing as nothing. You are watching television and you are breathing. This is something and therefore not nothing.
Michael O'Leary demonstrates daily that there is no such thing as nothing, and this is why free flights or free promotions deals will cost you more than nothing. The man with nothing to say, will undoubtedly finish up saying something. Ask a friend if there is any news and they will reply. “nothing” - to be followed by an item of interest. “She is nothing like her mother”, won't cut either: “There is 'nothing' like a good fire, Irish pub, good game of hurling, bit of music, floury potato, good sauna, good laugh, brisk walk” etc. All these contradictions go on proving beyond all reasonable doubt that there is no such thing as nothing. And here I am writing nothing and you have nothing but nothing to read about this week. I really am a nothing …
You must pound the iron while it is hot, but you can polish it at your leisure.
Published by kind permission of the Westmeath Examiner