But we needn’t base our understanding of the nonexistence of the universe on the complexities of modern physics. We can take any common object and arrive at the same conclusion. We made a cursory examination of a teacup in the previous chapter. This time let’s look in more detail at another common object — a pencil, for instance. Is a pencil real? Does it exist from its own side as a pencil or is it just a label we apply to a collection? We attach this label to a thin, tubular object made of wood with a graphite center. Usually there is an eraser at one end. As the pencil is used it becomes smaller and smaller. And the eraser gets used up too, often disappearing entirely. It may get to the point where its functional identity — “a writing instrument” — no longer exists. When we ask for a pencil and are handed a stub, we may cry out, “This isn’t a pencil! Give me something I can write with.” Has its “pencil-ness” evaporated? Where did it go? We could also say that what we call a pencil is merely a short moment in the long history of some wood and minerals. Previously the pencil was a part of a tree and some graphite in the ground as coal, some metal not yet mined and refined, and some rubber in a rubber tree or a synthetic rubber substitute that may come from oil deep within the earth. Later on, the collection, momentarily labeled a “pencil,” will disintegrate into dust, fungi, minerals, gases.