Monday, December 14, 2015

IT IS WHAT IT ISN'T – Does a Vacuum Really Suck?

      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
When is the absence of something more powerful than its presence? It's not a trick question. In fact, Nature provides many answers: the colossal explosion of a lightning bolt; the swirling core of a vortex; the mind-boggling power of a cosmic black hole.

I’ve written occasionally here about the 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 hurtful implication of a friend’s hesitation when you ask them what they think of something you’re just nuts about.

Whether it's the inescapable laws of physics or the often-less-clearly defined rules of human dynamics, 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, most of us are raised and educated quite literally. We’re taught to see what’s there, and completely miss what’s not.

            To twist the 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 I’m not sure many millennials do, addicted as they seem to be, to all the predigested information and virtual experiences available to them at the tap of an icon.

The other key to hearing the inhalations of Nature's song 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.

              So how do you embrace what's left 
              of life's sweet spaces and silences?

We live in a culture that does not easily abide empty spaces and times. We find even the briefest silences awkward, filling them with "ahs" or "ums" or silly small talk. We allow others to dictate our schedules—not just bosses or clients, but loved ones who, with the best of intentions, pounce on what's left of our "free" time as if we could not say no—and too often we do not.

And don't get me going on all those silly little screens that spoon-feed us information, entertainment and advertising wherever we go, whatever the time, and which we find so hard to turn off.

So how do you embrace what's left of life's sweet spaces and silences? By staying in your seat a few minutes, still listening, after the concert is over? Watching the way the brook flows between two rocks? Finding your deepest inner space and letting it merge with infinity? Can you think of other ways?


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