Nothing is Everything

David Cowles

Aug 2, 2021

Nothing is everything” is an advertising slogan for Skyrizi (AbbVie), a dermatological drug. I assume it means that the absence of skin blemishes is ‘everything’, at least for some people.
But it got me thinking: what else could “nothing is everything” mean?

Nothing is everything” is an advertising slogan for Skyrizi (AbbVie), a dermatological drug. I assume it means that the absence of skin blemishes is ‘everything’, at least for some people.

But it got me thinking: what else could “nothing is everything” mean?


Nicholas of Cusa (15th century) taught that all ‘knowing’ is idolatry. He preached “Learned Ignorance”. For Nicholas, when it comes to so-called knowledge, nothing is everything.

A 1993 movie, “Little Buddha” (sensational BTW) closes with the central character, a young boy named Jesse, telling his parents, no world, no earth, no sea, “no Jesse”. In the tradition of many Eastern spiritualities, the phenomenological world is ‘mere maya’ and therefore nothing is everything.


The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that disorder (entropy) is constantly increasing. Eventually, the universe will reach a state of maximal entropy and minimal order which is equivalent to no-being: nothing is everything.


William Shakespeare wrote (The Tempest): “Our revels now are ended. These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air; and—like the baseless fabric of this vision— the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself, yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, and like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind.”


And again (MacBeth): “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle. Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” For Shakespeare, clearly, “nothing is everything”.


Nihilism is a major, but often ignored, aspect of our intellectual history. Thank you AbbVie for bringing this front and center.

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