Monday, January 26, 2015

THE SPACES BETWEEN – Learning to See Both Everything and Nothing

In Nature, as in life, we can see more if we notice not just things, but the spaces between things; not just sounds, but the silences they frame.

Far from empty, these inhalations in the song of creation are what make each note so clear, so sweet.

From Under the Wild Ginger – A Simple Guide to the Wisdom of Wonder, by Jeffrey Willius

                                                            —//—         —//—          —//—

Once again, it’s Australian Open time. For me this winter tennis tournament is a welcome escape from the cabin fever that’s so often hanging, cold, damp and gray, around my shoulders this time of year.

Besides watching the greats—Djokovic, Williams, Nadal, The Screamer (Sharapova)—alternately pick and beat each other’s games apart with astounding skill and endurance, there’s another pleasure for me in the Australian Open.

       Most of the impression comes from what
       we read, as it were, between the lines.

For the past several years, one of the event’s main sponsors has been ANZ, a banking conglomerate serving Australia and New Zealand—thus the initials. Its logo appears somewhere in the background of about half the camera angles.

I’m a former marketing communications guy and brand designer, and I think ANZ’s logo is, at least design-wise, among the finest corporate marks I’ve ever seen.

The main reason I love this graphic so much is that it engages the eye in a most effective interplay between positive and negative space. The positive forms—essentially just two light blue circles, one cut in half; the other with a light-bulb-shaped bite taken out of it—are laid onto a dark blue background. The negative space is just that background area flowing between and into the circular elements.

And it’s so simple; that’s what makes it so elegant. With just those three basic forms the designer’s created both an interesting arrangement of the shapes, and, with the spaces between, a unmistakable human form.

More than that, in the way that little being’s arms and torso flare out around the blue circles, it becomes a dynamic, playful expression. It spreads, and reaches, and grows. It seems the arms are reaching out toward you, welcoming you, perhaps blessing you in some way. It’s friendly, exuberant, simultaneously humble and confident.

Just what you want in a bank, right? And most of the impression comes from what we read, as it were, between the lines.

     In western society…we’re taught to see 
     what’s there, and completely miss what’s not.

I’ve written occasionally about this interplay between positive and negative space. As I’ve tried to capture in that quote from my book, Under the Wild Ginger, it can have a profound effect on how we see the world and life.

It’s knowing the whale’s down there without even seeing it. It’s the void, the potential, in the human experience an entrepreneur or inventor sees and then fills. It’s the powerful meaning in someone’s hesitation when you ask them what they think of something you’re just nuts about.

Seeing and appreciating the spaces between is one of the great little secrets of being truly aware and in the moment. And it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. At least in western society, we’re often raised and educated quite literally. We’re taught to see what’s there, and completely miss what’s not.

            To twist an old axiom a bit, 
            you have to believe it to see it.

Allowing existence to something most people would say isn’t there takes a little practice. What’s perhaps most difficult for many folks is the irony that, the harder you try to do this, the less likely you are to succeed.

My best teacher has been Nature, with a dash of faith, instilled by my parents, thrown in. If you can simply BE in Nature—no agenda, no schedule, no expectation, just pure, simple presence—Nature will eventually show you both what is and what exists right next to that, behind it, even in the space it now occupies, but once didn’t.

Sounds a bit metaphysical, a little new-agey, right? That’s where the faith comes in. To twist an old axiom a bit, you have to believe it to see it. And how does one unaccustomed to it come by that faith? It helps if you want to—something which I’m not sure many milennials do, addicted, I fear, to all the pre-digested information and virtual experiences available to them at arm’s length.

The other key to hearing and believing in Nature’s counsel lies in what I like to call seeing generously. It’s the attitude, the belief, that truly seeing—even what may not seem at first to be there—is more like giving than receiving. Far from the competitive, materialistic fervor our culture seems to believe drives our economy and makes us all happy, it is not an act of acquisition. It’s an act of surrender.


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