The 365 Commitment

Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit

The era of roman Hellenistic philosophy got a bit of a bad rapport due to the rise of Christianity. Many of the philosophies of that period were not bad really, just really overshadowed in history by the growing popularity of a new world religion. Later, there would come rise to a Hellenistic Christianity which was an attempt to reconcile Roman philosophical thought with the new religious fervor. You would recognize the names of those Roman philosophers, Clement, Augustine for were two of the more popular figures the second and third centuries. However, you probably would not recognize Titus Lucretius Carus, a Hellenistic philosopher who was born 99 BCE.

I bring this persona up because it is a marvel to consider what these thinkers were battling with at the time. We think of middle roman era to be about conquest, conspiracy and gladiator games but in reality there was a lot more going on. Roman philosophers were the scientists of the day and they were coming up with some incredible theories. The most popular of the time before Christ was the concept of Materialism. Not the rush to the store and buy a bunch of Christmas presents type of materialism, but rather the concept that all material is made up of little micro material objects called atoms.

This included the concept of orbital patterns of smaller objects, similar to the way planets revolve around the sun in our solar system. This started really putting to the question the ancient Roman concept borrowed from the Greeks that there was a bunch of divine intervention going on by deities and other characters in the heavens. Roman philosophers started to ponder what phenomena really did control the patterns prevalent in celestial universe and in our own terrestrial existence. Lucretius was no exception and as was common at the time he presented his thoughts on the subject through a lengthy poem that he presented titled, “On the Nature of the Universe.” The poem is comprised of 7,400 meters or rhythmic sentences put together in 6 separate books. He discusses physics, atomism, how our minds were formed, what the soul really is, what the sensation is that produces thought, how the world came to be and what he consider the universal laws that held the universe and world together. He even walks you through the slow development of the use of tools, and the crafting of metals. Some believe he was one of the first to identify the concept of the bronze age. If you are really looking for a treat, find a translated copy from Latin and enjoy reading a really complex work that does not seem like poetry at all. This is because you would have to read it in Latin to really appreciate the rhythm of the poem.

Lucretius and others ushered in this new type of thinking, a sort of naturalism which I supposed you could argue was the beginnings of the theories of evolution. Most naturalists would agree that a selection process took place within an environment and the strongest, smartest, fastest species would survive. It is with this background that I introduce a Latin phrase attributed to Lucretius:

“Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit”

Loosely translated this means nothing (nihilo) comes from (ex…fit) nothing (Nihil). Remember this was a man with his head buried into the cosmos, pondering molecular structure that we would not have the technology to view until 1983 (2,000 years after his death). He believed that the universe was comprised of things that we could not see, and made some pretty reasonable arguments for this assumption. So what did he mean that nothing comes from nothing?

This is why this phase is so inspiring. If you put nothing into your work, you will get nothing back. The only effective change you can get back, the only real measurable result that you will see will follow your own efforts and hard work. If you put effort in, you will get a result back. The contrary is what his statement implies. You put nothing forward, then nothing will be your reply. So remember this, from one of the forefathers of modern thought. If you want a result, you have to work at it. Otherwise you will get exactly what you put in, nothing.

Guy Reams

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