Faulty memory . . . of nothing

I recently posted this doodle . . . 

. . . and quipped it might hold the key to what we — as humans — should be doing. 


” . . . that almost looks like it should means something . . . if anyone knows if it does, please mention it in the comments below because people want to know what they should be doing.”

Well, that was me making a joke within a joke. A brief history is in order. 

In high school, the teacher to one of my classes offered up what looked like a Chinese language symbol and challenged us to find out what it meant (it was worth extra credit on an assignment). A couple of friends of mine were Chinese but they said they didn’t recognize the symbol. They might have been telling the truth, but could also have withheld the information because we were fierce competitors in class rankings (I was, at the time, ahead of them). 

The year was 1970 and — and here I have to swear it’s true or I won’t be believed — there was no Interweb. If you were doing research, it had to be actual research, meaning going to the library and looking stuff up. 

But, again, you had to have some idea of where to look. Google wasn’t even an idea at the time (again, honest; I’m not joshing you). Siri was just a popular name in a few places around the world, among them, Sweeden and India. 

We had a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica (something like Wikipedia but printed on paper and collected in indexed volumes each of which could easily kill a small dog or stun a cat if they weren’t fast enough to get out of the way when you dropped one of these volumes) but, naturally, I couldn’t find anything in the Encyclopedia nor at the library despite researching various languages. 

Eventually, the teacher gave the answer in class . . . it meant “nothing” . . . literally. 

That made an impression on me and I remembered the symbol all these years since then and I often drew it when doodling absentmindedly. 

The thing is, I hadn’t drawn it for a while, so I messed up. Look at the following:

[A] is what I drew in the live doodle (almost, I left out one bar).

[B] is what the teacher had given us.

However, the teacher mislead us (as they oft do) . . . 

First, the symbol is closer to the [C] version and second, it doesn’t mean “nothing” . . . well, maybe. I suppose one of the translations can be interpreted as nothing, but it has deeper religious connotations in Buddhism. Perhaps the teacher was a closet Buddhist (I went to a Catholic high school). 

You can read about it HERE and see a bunch of different ways of drawing it HERE.

From now on, my choice will be to represent it thus:

And, rather than “nothing”, I’ll apply the “not applicable” interpretation as closer to the intended meaning.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

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About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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11 Responses to Faulty memory . . . of nothing

  1. OH! thanks for letting us know! And for the links!
    To me, it looks like a letter of the Korean or Chinese alphabet.
    It, also, looks a bit like a tent/house on stilts. Ha.

    Ha! what you said about the Encyclopedia Britannica made me laugh! Okay, I didn’t laugh about the killing of small dogs or stunning of cats, but about the size of those encyclopedias!

    Hmm…was your teacher being a smart-aleck?!?! a wise-guy?!?!

    I wonder what’s happening with all of those many different kinds and volumes of encyclopedias these days? I could shrink wrap them and sell them as booster-seats or step-stools.

    HUGS!!! :-)


    • disperser says:

      When we moved from Michigan (2004) we couldn’t even give away the set of Encyclopedia Britannica we had. I wanted to donate it, but places that might have taken them were swamped with too many (they were large volumes not easily stored – the wooden shelves I’d kept them on were slightly bowed from the weight).

      It saddened me to do it, but we just recycled them. Beautiful books that in a very brief time outlived their usefulness . . . or, their practicality.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, ’tis sad. :-( I spent a lot of hours reading encyclopedias when I was a little girl.
        And I image even back then, in The Dark Ages, a set of encyclopedias, especially Britannica, were expensive.


      • disperser says:

        Yes, they had been. Bound in leather, they were. Very nice. I think they were from the 70’s, and that was one of the problems with Encyclopedias . . . they always had new versions. The alternative was to buy a subscription to the updates that were published every year (another book with all the new stuff).

        Encyclopedia salesmen were a thing, once. They made pretty good money.


  2. macquie says:

    Nice artistic calligraphy. Could be still meant ‘nothing’ but rather be meant by ‘no ego’.


    • disperser says:

      Thanks . . . the interpretation depends a bit on the various philosophies. As an answer to the question asked (about dogs), the “not applicable” interpretation seems more appropriate.

      If one talks about a broader application of Buddist/Zen philosophy, then one could drift into the ego question although even there it’s a bit nebulous and won’t translate precisely.

      Besides, for all the talking about the lack of “self” it appears to me there is a strong desire to identify the self with the philosophy . . . a contradiction of sorts, I think.


  3. colonialist says:

    To me it means why the fence is in front of the light. Except the why is slanted a bit.


  4. AnnMarie says:

    Mother asked what I was reading so intently . . . your great little pre/post 313 post!


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