Recently, I was asked this question and I felt daunted at the scope of the question but I decided to come up with a good short in-a-nutshell single paragraph answer. Somehow, it just grew but I did my best to ensure the answer was easy-to-understand and if you guys have any questions, do drop me a comment down there and I will get back to you.
The emptiness you are talking about is emptiness of purpose or that life has no meaning. It has got nothing to do the emptiness of inherent existence that the Buddha talked about. People definitely fear emptiness or meaninglessness, they fear that the life they lead have no meaning or leads nowhere. This is the feeling you get when you live a life purely on materialistic aims alone. What’s that? Just getting a degree, working, paying bills, getting a girlfriend, boyfriend, a career, a family and material acquisitions and that’s it.
Is that wrong? No, it is not about being right or wrong. It is the fact that doing these things alone do not make people truly contented and happy. Proof of this is the fact that wealth does not make people happy. If it does, then the wealthiest people on earth should be the happiest but are they? If they are truly happy, why are Hollywood celebrities always having a drug problems, drinking problems, relationship problems, legal problems and the list goes on. I used Hollywood because they represent a segment of society that many people look up to and there’s abundant news about them. And yes, much of the tabloid news are exaggerated but not everything is exaggerated. There’s always an element of truth in it.
Anyway, I wanted to point out that materialism does not imbue our lives with meaning and hence, people often get deeply unhappy. Some people are driven to acquiring more and more acquisitions in order to fill this emptiness or meaninglessness inside and would do whatever it takes, driving themselves deeper into despair. Some people seek a different answer and choose to look for a deeper meaning in life through spirituality by getting ordained or dedicating their lives to spirituality or charitable works. Most fortunate ones like some of your family members, choose a middle path, where they add spirituality to their secular life. In this way, they imbue a deeper meaning to their lives.
With regards to the doctrine of emptiness of inherent existence is a type of realization about the true nature of reality. In a nutshell, everything is subject to impermanence, decay and death and destruction. In addition to that, we live our lives governed by conventional truths and that is aspects of our lives that we hang on dearly as if it was the ultimate truth but actually, it was not. For example, a girl in some societies are not allowed to work, they are just meant to work in the kitchen and be housewives. That is only true in those societies but in reality, other more open and advance societies reject that view and view women as equal to men and capable of being breadwinners of the family. Those are examples of convention truths. The ultimate truth is a truth that transcends everything For example, everything breathing are subject to sickness, old age and death. There’s no exception. That is the Buddha’s doctrine on emptiness in simple terms for you.
But I do think that when some small-minded people come to the realization that the convention truth like their views on women, they go into a reaction out of fear. That’s because they lack education or exposure or even both. Anyway, I hope the explanation here helps you.