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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