Nihil Sub Sole Novum*

Galileo sculpture by Aristodemo Costoli in Uffizi

Discontent with the increasing wealth and unchecked corruption of the Roman Catholic church helped to interrupt and eventually break down the stagnant worldview of the Dark Ages, and the long slumber of free inquiry slowly began to end. For the first time in a thousand years, investigations into the nature of things could be directed without clerical tampering and the threat of heresy.

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A Crack of Light Between Two Nothings

Chichen Itza

A key element of Aztec philosophy was duality: in Aztec poetry and the noble-dialect of Nahuatl, figure of speech and symbolic metaphors were based on paired words that were often contradictory such as “Water Fire,” which meant war. Quetzalcoatl, the chief Aztec god, was described by the duality between the mundane (earth, snakes) and the divine (sky, birds).

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Apropos of Nothing

Statue of Roman Emperor Constantine

In 314, the Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan assured the Christian hegemony over several competitors. You’d think the anxieties and melancholia present during the Roman Empire’s decline would be partially alleviated with the official sanction of Christianity. Hardly!

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Nihil Perpetuum Est*

Forum Romanum Reconstruction rendering

During its thousand year history, the Roman empire increased to a point where it encompassed virtually all of the known world. The most fascinating thing about the Roman civilization? Not its imperialist expansion, but that tortuous, strung-out slide to ruin. Why Rome fell is one of the great questions of history. Although the Romans seemed motivated by an industrious, if tedious pragmatism, we can also discern a widespread fatalistic resignation. Continue reading Nihil Perpetuum Est*

We Know Nothing

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Tyche, the Greek Goddess of Luck

The hallmark of the Hellenistic era was chaos due to the deteriorating political influence of the city states and countless ruinous wars among autocratic rulers. That Tyche, the mercurial goddess of chance, was highly venerated everywhere, clearly indicates the instability of the time. Hellenistic people were deeply cognizant of the omnipresence of contingency in their lives.

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Ex Nihilo

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Ancient Greek pottery: Achilles & Penthesella

Ancient Greek mythology symbolized the existential considerations of the Hellenic Greek their origin and the nature of things. The Greek Pantheon consists of anthropomorphic beings with supernatural powers and desires. Much like humans, they are capricious, intolerant and bored. Therefore, these Olympians account for a frightening, unpredictable reality and the gratuitous suffering of mortals. Continue reading Ex Nihilo

In the beginning… there was Nothing.

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Nothing at all. Our relationship with death has profoundly shaped Western culture. A pervasive death consciousness has created religions, nourished philosophies and eventually stimulated scientific investigation, as well as fueled fanaticism, a brooding and melancholic pessimism, which resulted in nihilistic conclusions. Such nihilistic sentiments are far more than merely isolated occurrences, pervasive although manifesting in various guises. Continue reading In the beginning… there was Nothing.