Bruce A. Martin
About 650 words

Nothing

Something.
I have to write something.
But, sometimes I have nothing to say.

Writing cannot be forced.
The pad of paper is blank, and I have nothing to say.

Not always, of course; just now.
Usually, I have too much to say.
At this moment:   nothing.

Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nichevo. Null.
Those are some words for "nothing".
An empty circle is the symbol for "nothing", in some cultures.
In others, it is just a dot.

Is a dot just a tiny circle?
A small, empty, hollow circle?
Or is it a filled-in, solid disc?    Shrunk so small that the inner walls touch?
The walls of the circle have a thickness.
With this pen, there is a limit to how small a circle can be.
How small can a dot be?
Is that "nothing"?    Not quite.

Why is zero round?
A triangle has three sides, a rectangle has four sides.
And so on, thru penta-, hexa-, deca-, giga-, and zillion-o-gons.
Ad infinitum.

Does a round circle have sides?    (Redundantly-round sides?)
An infinite number of sides is the same as no sides.    Too many angles is no angles.
If you walk in a circular orbit, are you always turning, or never turning?
Nail one foot to the floor and decide?    Naah! Too boring to try.


Zero.

This year has three of them. 2000 years ago should have been the year "zero". We call it "one B.C" instead of "zero A.D.", but both of these designations use a calendar that was not invented until hundreds of years later.

People still argue about whether the "millenium" really began earlier this year, or whether it doesn't occur untilthe year 2001. But a "millenium" may begin at any time, or in any year. If I call this moment "now", then it is the beginning of the "Now Millenium" (which ends the millenium that began early in the reign of Charlemagne). The millenia for the Declaration of Independence and the assasination of Abraham Lincoln will be in the years 2776 and 2865, respectively. And each of those events ended a millenium that began a thousand years earlier (in the years 776 and 865, respectively).

Last January, people all around the world, from Tonga to Little Diomede, celebrated a millenium that began when the year number turned from three to four digits. (Many people also feared that the world would end because some computer programs represented the year with only two digits.)

Who cares if the year "0 A.D." was the same as the year "1 B.C."? It was the beginning of a 1000-year period in which three digits were sufficient to write the number of the year. That millenium ended 1000 years ago. In eight thousand years, you will need five digits (and all the software that was just repaired will be broken again.)

Next year, people will celebrate a "millenium" that began in the year 1001.

Now, that is a very nice number.    It's so ..... palindromic.
It not only reads the same backwards and forwards, but also upside-down.
Like the year 1961.

Of course, 1961 did not read the same backwards and forwards. Aside from years like 1, 11, 111, 1111, and 101, very few years do read the same with mirrors slicing them both horizontally and vertically. (Crystallographers call this a "4-fold symmetry".) Of course, there was the year 8, not to mention 88, and 8, as well as 808, 818, 181, and more-recently 1881. One day, people may say the same about 11811. (Maybe the Dow will close there, next month.)

However, there is one and only one year that reads the same backwards, forwards, upside-down, sideways, diagonally, and at any and every angle, for 360 degrees around the circle. It is the year zero.

As I said at the beginning, "I have "nothing to say". This was all about nothing.
Now that I've said it, it is time to stop -- because I have come full circle.

-------- O --------


THE END

© 2000, Bruce A. Martin
P.O.Box 456, Middle Island, NY 11953
bam@abcdunlimited.com