Seinfeld was famously dubbed “a show about nothing.” I’ve prayed about what to write for this blog post, thought about it, and then prayed about it more. But nothing has come to me. Nothing, nada, zilch. So, I’m just going to work with what God has given me. This is a post about nothing.
Reflecting on nothing might sound easy. It immediately proves hard to pursue, however. We can’t really think or speak about it. The concept of nothing—an absolute lack of any being whatsoever—lies beyond our language, because it lies far beyond our experience. By nature we can only know what is, what has existence or is somehow rooted in existence (or, in what ought to exist. My right pinky finger might not be there, but we know this to be a privation—something that ought to be, based on the natural order of things, but is not).
“Nothing will come of nothing,” quips Shakespeare’s King Lear. So, ultimately, why is there something at all, rather than nothing?
God created ex nihilo, out of nothing, and the Church appeals to God’s goodness as the reason, the divine impetus, for this creative act (CCC 294). But this explanation is different from saying that His goodness compelled Him. In other words, we may tend to presume that it was somehow necessary for God to create. Or perhaps even that He was in some sense incomplete before creating the heavens and the earth. As if God were a divine watchmaker taking a long vacation before His first day on the job, sitting listlessly, wishing to get to work.
On the contrary, God is infinitely perfect. God is all goodness. His goodness is perfect and full without the existence of created things. Creations adds—you guessed it—nothing to His divine perfection.
God doesn’t need us. “To act from need belongs only to an imperfect agent,” not to God, St. Thomas Aquinas explains (ST I, q. 44, a. 4, ad 1). I know, this doesn’t sound flattering. We like to feel needed, after all. Are we just an afterthought to God, then? He could take us or leave us? To the contrary, while God in no way needs us, He delights in what He has made (Gen 1:31). That creation adds nothing to His divine perfection serves as a profound testament to His love for us, not an argument against it. God alone is “the most perfectly liberal giver, because He does not act for His own profit, but only for His own goodness” (ST I, q. 44, a. 4, ad 1). All He bestows in creating is sheer gift. Utter gratuity. He cannot be outdone in generosity. And this tells us a lot about Him. He could have had no other motivation for creation but to impart, to share His goodness.
That divine goodness is not only the beginning but also the end—the final purpose—of creation. God created us out of nothing, and created us with a deep attraction to and desire for Him. Nothing else can satisfy that desire for the Almighty. For “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9). That’s a nothingness we can get behind.