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Something from Nothing
by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D.

When Rob married Nancy, we were unable to attend the wedding, but we sent a special gift to their California home: We sent them nothing.

Why would we send two lovely people a card saying, "Congratulations. Here's nothing"?

Rob is our daughter-in-law Judy's brother, and his new wife, Nancy, is a charming and talented actress. We are fond of Rob and Nancy, and happy to have them in our extended family. We chose their gift carefully, following our guideline for helping the family celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or weddings. We try to give gifts that show our love and meet people's needs. We thought Rob and Nancy needed nothing, so that is what we gave them — with a card enclosed to explain the value of nothing.

Why is nothing so valuable? Because people who have everything desire nothing. Nothing makes everyone happy. Nothing solves all your problems, and nothing meets everyone's needs.

You can learn a lot about life when someone gives you nothing to think about. Think about the earth you are standing on and all that walks and crawls and grows upon it. Think about the origin of life. Where did the planet and the life on it come from? What preceded us and created us? The only answer scientists give us is "nothing."

Whether you are a philosopher who deals with consciousness or an astronomer who studies dark holes, most people end up having to account for something arising out of nothing. We know that an undifferentiated source of intelligence can give rise, out of nothing, to consciousness, energy, matter and love. We know it can, because it did. So obviously nothing is not the whole story. There is something to nothing which makes it such a valuable gift. Nothing has the potential to become something. That is why many people such as the American Indian place great importance on an all-white animal. It is the blank canvas that reminds us that wherever we have nothing we have the opportunity to create something.

I think it is unlikely we will ever be able to explain fully the first miracle in which everything living arose from nothing. In our age, many scientists reject that which can't be fully explained. But the inexplicable happens all the time. It makes more sense to simply accept things we observe but cannot understand. It is really more scientific to keep an open mind. Until we can understand and explain the things we now label miracles, let us accept them and try to create more of them.

I know from experience and from observing and listening to other people's stories that we can do miraculous things sometimes. We can bring about healing and new life because the loving intelligence that created us out of nothing is still there for all of us to see and use. Ask and you will receive. Believe and it shall be given. Energy and matter are interchangeable, the physicists tell us, and desire and intention alter them.

Did Rob and Nancy appreciate the gift we gave them? A month later we received a note thanking us for a set of silverware. We wrote back saying they had made a mistake and were thanking us for something someone else had sent them. We again pointed out how something can cause embarrassing errors and problems, while nothing keeps everyone out of trouble.

But in case they were not yet ready to appreciate having nothing, this time we sent a large, colorful hammock so the two to them could lie down, rest and do nothing.

Copyright © 1998 by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D.

From Presciptions for Living: Inspirational Lessons for a Joyful, Loving Life by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998). Used by arrangements with HarperSanFrancisco, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

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