Understanding nothingness…

12 April 2020.


The world seems to have come to a halt slowly, as economy starts to slow down, non essential businesses are closed, many countries implemented lockdown which affected most people’s way of living.

And Singapore is not spared too.

It’s the fifth day of Singapore’s Circuit Breaker, kind of a lockdown similar to other countries.

The number of COVID-19 new cases has been on the rise for Singapore for the past weeks, resulting in the government’s decision for this Circuit Breaker measure.

Perhaps, complacency is the greatest culprit for this global outbreak, when every single pair of eyes was watching how China fought the battle against the virus in the early part of the year.

I consider myself as one of those complacent individuals, who does not really take this incident very seriously. I do exercise more caution in whatever I do, wherever I go but I am not too worried about whether I will contract the virus or not.

I’ve been telling others and myself, if it comes, it comes.

At least not now.

But I do worry for my loved ones and friends. I feel for those who are sick and their families (all over the world).

Friday was Good Friday, making this weekend a long weekend.

But this long weekend made no difference to many people, for most of us are already working from home, and other than our houses, there is nowhere we can go.

The government has imposed strict measures with fines to curb the spread of the virus, and I am supportive of that, even though I feel restricted to a certain extent.

I spent my Friday on two sketches. And I consider that as a major achievement for myself, for I know how much time it took me to complete one sketch.

Sketching has become something that allows me to be present and mindful. It brings peace to my mind, body and soul. The world is currently in a turmoil, with fears creeping up each and individual’s heart unknowingly. Yet, ignorance continues to fill our mind, scrambling over things and matters that do not matter to us anymore if we are contracted and cannot heal and recover.

So I chose to be present.

The past is gone, and the future is unknown. What we have now is present, and nothing is more important than present. Is it worth it to get upset over trivial matters? Is it worth it to worry about what tomorrow can or cannot bring? If we cannot even enjoy the present, there is no future to enjoy, for whatever that happens, it is always the now.

Be grateful.

The air is free, but not for the dead. The sun does not discriminate, except the buried. Be grateful that we are fully alive, for there are many others struggling on the bed fighting for their lives.

Saturday was a “working” day for me as it was a deployment day for the project that I was involved in.

When the government announced on 02 April that they will implement the circuit breaker on 07 April 2020, only essential businesses are allowed to operate. And it happened that my company’s business belong to the essentials.

That’s a good thing, at least to me.

But it just came to my mind on what is essential and what is not? Is the project that I have been working on an essential to the business at this critical moment, or it can be delayed? What if I am one of the carriers, and my presence on site for the deployment cause the whole site to be closed and cripple the business?

I gently voiced it up to my direct manager, who then gave me a general statement – stay safe and wear mask. And I knew, nobody’s going to be bothered.

I spent half day in the warehouse for the roll over of the new system, which eventually had to rolled back as there was an issue we could not resolve. And by the time I reached home, it was near to 7pm.

Was it a good day spent? I do not know as nothing was achieved, but at least we tried.

Today is a meditation day for me as I meditated at least 4 times, excluding the one that I will be doing before bed later.

Each meditation was about half an hour without any meditation music but I felt better than all the recent meditations I have had. And that was when I really felt that the world has kind of come to a halt.

The surrounding was quiet, there was no street noise like speeding cars, screeching of tires, honking of the horns and even intervals of the train seemed to be longer.

I could hear the spinning ceiling fan, I could feel the wind rushing in from the window and out through the door. And then I could hear my inner voice, wishing for my loved ones to be safe, wishing for the world to win the battle against the virus and wishing for my dreams to come true.

I had glimpses of enlightenment here and there, as I chanted Heart Sutra at the beginning of each meditation. The main teaching of the Heart Sutra is to calm our minds and hearts, teaching us on the importance of “nothingness” and “detachment”.

And I thought to myself, if I am able to really understand the truth of “nothingness” and achieve “detachment”, what else do I have to fear in my life?

I recalled that many years ago when Charlene was still very small, we came upon this interesting paragraph in Charlotte’s Web and we both were amused by the tongue twisting paragraph as well as what the content was trying to teach us:

“What do you mean less than nothing? I don’t think there is any such thing as less than nothing. Nothing is absolutely the limit of nothingness. It’s the lowest you can go. It’s the end of the line. How can something be less than nothing? If there were something that was less than nothing, then nothing would not be nothing, it would be something – even though it’s just a very little bit of something. But if nothing is nothing, then nothing has nothing that is less than it is.”

This is the two dimensional world that we are in.

If nothing needs something to compare in order to be nothing, then it is still something. I read somewhere that a space exists only when there are at least two objects. If there is no object, there is no space at all. It sounds very profound but as I thought deeper, it is nothing but the truth.

Things, matters, emotions, feelings exist because there are the other end of them that can be compared. And if we are able to recognise that the moment we are able to let go of judgements, then sufferings will end. I’m not even sure if this statement stands true.

Some things cannot be expressed by words, as when it is being expressed, it loses its original meaning.

When I was younger, I love to read Chinese Swordsman novels. And one of the famous author, Gu Long, loved to write statement such as: “The man was expressionless. But expressionless in itself is an expression”. I was always amazed by such statements which made me fall into deep thoughts.

COVID-19 has become the number one common enemy of all the people around the world. It is so minute that we cannot even see with naked eyes, but it is so lethal that it is claiming lives in every corner of the world and has also instilled fears in many of us.

I was telling Charlene today that after this COVID-19 is over, there will be more depressed people in this world. It was a casual remark, but this thought just came to me. With the sudden change in lifestyle, where everyone is required to stay home 24×7, which most people are not used to, it may just create another set of problems tomorrow.

However, it can also be possible that people come out of this situation stronger and more appreciative of life. But it will only be for a short period of time

For as long as we have greed, lust and desires, COVID-19 will soon be forgotten, just like how we have forgotten about SARS until this outbreak.

Today, I chanced upon this beautiful picture and love it very much — an eagle soaring in the sky with a beautiful sun.

So, I decided to draw it on my iPad Pro.

If I can be an eager, I will fly to the place I wish to be in now…


Francis Lim

1 Comment »

  1. A very long piece!!! But a very good one!!!
    I hope the cases will get a plateau after a few days and people really should not go out!!! Wear mask, wash hands I even wear eyeglasses to protect eyes from other’s saliva.

    Liked by 1 person

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