The Invincible Zero
In Shakespeare’s King Lear, when the King’s youngest and dearest daughter refuses to pander to the King’s foolish conceit of being loved by her much more than what a daughter should, the King flies into a rage and says those oft-quoted words, ‘Nothing comes out of nothing.’ True enough, common logic dictates that nothing can ever come out of nothing. And yet, it is here that the truth of existence defies normal human understanding.
It stands to mathematical reason that the sum of two opposite values will always work out to zero. Put mathematically, we could say that for every value of ‘x’,
x + (-x) = 0.
This is a universal equality. Yet hidden in it is the paradoxical secret of existence. Were we to swap the Left Hand side of the equation with its right hand side, we would get
0 = x + (-x)
Put verbally, it means that zero can yield infinite pairings for every value of x and yet stay true. This is the power of zero.
Historically too, the zero has been the most enigmatic number. Viewed in the perspective of this equation, it can scarcely be equated with ‘nothing’. Then, what is zero? To my mind it is only, the negation of all attributes, positive and negative, as reflected in the other side of the equation. But, that does not mean it is nothing. It is something that transcends the value systems of the dualistic world. Hence, its sovereign ability to deliver an infinite variety of pairs of opposites!
If zero solves the riddle of existence, it also provides the anchor of human consciousness and action. Our sensory mind is the repository of stimuli received from the environment. Based on the nature of the stimulus received, the human mind not only records it as either good/pleasant or bad/unpleasant but also responds accordingly. This structures both human consciousness and the gamut of human actions. Whether a person responds mildly or intensely to a set of stimuli, it creates ferment in his/her mind. The power of the human mind to grapple with challenging circumstances depends on its ability to keep the level of this agitation low. By negating the influence of the opposing stimuli, the human mind refuses to let its consciousness be altered by them. Such a mind stays put, so to say, in zero-consciousness.
An individual who succeeds in sustaining this state of consciousness remains in a state of harmony and peace. Such an individual is not tossed about by the opposing emotions of ecstasy and agony. (S)he remains calm in the face of all provocations. Calmness of mind lends him/her the power of finding solutions to even the most vexed issues with ease and intellectual felicity. The peace that (s)he soaks in does not, however, remain restricted to him/her alone. It spills over to the people and objects around him/her. In other words, (s)he becomes the epicenter of universal peace and harmony.
If the number of such individuals were to increase in a society/community, there would be a naturally established order in it. Such societies/communities would replicate the 'Law' inherent in Nature/Cosmos. But, if a society were to suffer from a paucity of such individuals, it would be susceptible to the chaotic forces of greed, lust, and corruption, and could soon become unmanageable and decadent. So, all societies should endeavour to cultivate zero-consciousness among their members.
Zero-consciousness cannot be obtained overnight. It can be obtained through an assiduous effort to stay calm. The threat to this consciousness comes as much from spurts of ecstasy as from bouts of depression. Both tend to unsettle the human mind and are, therefore, malefic from the point of view of zero-consciousness. However, as we are all human, we tend to get swept away by the currents of events. As we get involved in the maelstrom of events, we are unable to retain the objectivity required to stay calm and cool. In the process, we lose zero-consciousness and the ability to act and/or resolve problems with level-headed realism. Life gives us an opportunity to acquire this state of consciousness by throwing us into a number of trying and testy circumstances. As we grapple with these adverse situations, we gain the strength of mind that helps us to stay rooted in zero-consciousness. So, zero-consciousness should be a cherished goal for all educators and leaders of people.
Professor & Director