Hey, all! For one of my projects for school, I’ve been creating my own “Dictionary of the Untranslatable,” with the theme of love and beauty. Essentially, I’ve taken words that have no English translations, and am defining them instead through art and writing, attempting to convey emotions and feelings related to love and beauty in a universalizing, connecting way that it accessible to all humans, regardless of the confines of language. As I complete this, you’ll probably find me posting a few of my pieces to this blog! Today’s really resonated with me, and I thought you all would be intrigued by it!
The word that this is inspired by is Bilita Mpash, which is from the Bantu language of the Niger-Congo peoples in Africa. It means: the opposite of nightmare; a legendary, blissful state where all is forgiven and forgotten.
Following it are some really cool and interesting links for you to check out on the literal term for the feeling I describe- Hypnagogia, or the transitional state between being awake and being asleep. So without further ado, I’ll begin:
Nothingness. What is it, exactly? It’s not “something,” because then it would be somethingness. It’s not “anything,” because that would imply a “something,” and how could “something” be “nothing?” But on the reverse, isn’t “nothing” a “something?” I mean, we recognize it. It’s a word. You can find it in the Webster’s Dictionary, even. It has a quantifiable number of letters (7), a phonic pronunciation (nuh-th-ee-ng), and a physical presence on paper. Yet at the same time, the word itself implies a concept of nonexistence: of the absence of anything in the dictionary, quantifiable, or with a physical presence. It’s very counterintuitive. I think this is why it is so difficult for us, as humans, to recognize or appreciate nothingness, or even to feel it at all; it is because we simply struggle to perceive of or sit with the intangible. The intangible is a scary concept, just as scary as nothingness, because it removes the ever-pushed idea of evidence, logic, and reason. How can something exist if it is not visible, touchable, or “there?” It feels like a fantasy realm, a glass wall that separates reality from thought—the cosmic atmosphere from the logical, grounded earth. Yet, as hard as they are to conceive of, I find that the moments of our days when we do experience this odd sense of nothingness are some of the most blissful and forgiving.
For me, this happens in the one moment each and every day that I believe is one of our most vulnerable and tender, vastly unknown and mysterious, but intriguing and impactful at the same time. It is the moment, that split second, in between being awake and being asleep. Your eyes might be closed, or they might be open, but it is that blip in time when your brain goes from conscious to unconscious, when you’re standing at the edge of a little swirling black hole—the last thing you remember before you fall and are sucked into its swirling abyss. That second where you think the last thought you will be able to recall when you wake up the next day, when no matter how hard you wrack your brain, you cannot remember any conscious thought after that point, until the first thing your brain engages in when you again become lucid after your rest.
What amazes me about this moment is the concept that it happens, without fail, every single night, and is so quietly powerful, yet maintains its intangibility regardless. It is, in many ways, untouchable—a transitional point only possible when traveling between two states that requires not only an ending of one, but also the immediate beginning of another. Regardless of the swirling, constant thoughts that the conscious brain has cycling through itself as you lay on your back attempting to fall asleep for the night, whether or not they are anxious, normal, or simply random conjectures, this single moment provides us a one second reprieve from the anythings of our lives, directly before we “shut off” to rest. No matter what we may be thinking or feeling, we pass through this one time when there is that intangible, ironic, nothingness.
That moment, its feeling, and its sense is beautiful. It is a moment of forgiveness of the sins of the day and the altercations our minds have created for ourselves, in the form of personal expectation, outside influence, or whatever demons may be bringing us down. It is a chance to let out a deep breath and sit in literal “nothing” for a fleeting time, a chance to “just be” with ourselves, but without conscious thought or the constant judgment we subject ourselves to throughout the active day. No matter if you’re trying to solve the hardest math problem in the world, dealing with an issue in your personal life, or debating philosophical ideals, for just that brief time, you are forgiven, forgotten, and at utter peace with yourself and with the world. You exist, yet you are unaware of it. You are shifting through the warped and twisting throes of time, the space between the known and the unknown, dreaming and reality.
I get a sense of peace and satisfaction in knowing that I go through such moments every day. In many ways, they are like mini security blankets, ensuring protection and relaxation. Despite how short each moment actually is, they feel infinite, in their ability to pull at Time like a piece of well-chewed bubble gum, stretching it until it’s soft like taffy, bringing bliss and contentment along the way. Worries don’t exist in these moments. Neither do wars, or pain, or sorrow. All that exists is existence itself. The basic operations of the human body keeping itself alive. The thump of our hearts, circulation of our blood through the highways of our veins and arteries, the revitalizing inhalations of Oxygen and whoosh of our breaths as we release Carbon Dioxide, the rise and subsequent fall of our chest as we do so. The silent noise of the body constantly growing and changing, cells duplicating, tissue repairing, muscle building, phospholipid bilayers regulating the steady in and out of fluids and sodium through NaK+ sodium ion channels. The sense of being fully alive, yet also fully at peace and utterly calm. No thought, no action, just existence. Bliss. Forgiveness. Momentary Freedom. Forgetfulness. Self-Acceptance. Love.
While I constantly try to wrack my brain to think about what happens in these moments, I simply can’t. Yet, that is part of their beauty. They are beautiful because of their fluid, transient state, and ability to be almost touchable, yet still remain just out of reach of the thinking, rational, and concrete mind. They are kept in a locked box for which we only have the key when we aren’t looking for it, when we can lift the lid and enter a state of nothingness only when it is not on our thinking minds at all. It is protected in this way, from the influences of the outside world that cause human pain and suffering. It is a moment that cannot be trapped, poisoned, or shot down, a blip of innocence and pure life that floats just out of reach of human demons. Instead, it is a guarantee of bliss and beautiful freedom.
Is this moment, right before we fall asleep at night, a “something?” An “anything?” A “nothing?” Truly, it is all three at once, and also none of them at all. It is a something in its existence, but a nothing in its intangibility. It could be anything, but also could be nothing at all, or even a small something made up of anythings, but not recognized as anything except nothing. It is a math equation that doesn’t add up; anything plus something plus nothing equals infinity. Or zero. Or Infinity and zero combined. It is a confusing puzzle, but experiencing it feels like the easiest sensation to achieve. It is the ultimate definition of a dichotomy. Yet, dichotomy aside, it maintains its beauty and consistency. Thus, if anything, it has that idea of somethings. And it also exists in a swirling world of nothings, brought on by any number of anythings. Touchable yet so far away, that is how such moments are better kept, to preserve the sanctity and be appreciated, as is a piece of art in a museum, seen and not touched, simply to be experienced and felt. A moment of bilita mpash.
With that, good night…
and a quote from Edgar Allan Poe:
“Only when I am on the brink of sleep, with the consciousness that I am so.”
Here’s those links: