Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Positive Negative Space

Thirty spokes of a wheel all join at a common hub
yet only the hole at the center
allows the wheel to spin
Clay is molded to form a cup
yet only the space within 
allows the cup to hold water.
                   --Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching

This week we expanded the tiny exercise pen our pekingese
 have used one or two at a time for the last few months.
Even the two girls, who have had little interest in the smaller enclosure
were suddenly eager to go down the steps to experience the extra space.
I watched them all walk around the perimeter with cautious, deliberate steps
and then meander back through the center.
They definitely enjoyed their larger space.
Their movements through the open area made me think of ma, the Japanese term
 that is roughly translated as "the interval," 
or experiencing the negative space between forms.
I mentioned it once in an earlier blog post whose title I don't recall.

A study in negative space: Wylie, Lily, Cosi, Teddy, 2012

Finding a quiet space--an interval--has been on my mind recently.
I've been experiencing what we all go through in our culture from time to time:
the need to cease our ceaseless activity,
 to temper our un-tempered striving,
the desire to avoid filling in all the empty spaces in our lives with something,
whether food, talk, activities or the endless trail of have-to's.
The busier I am, the more I feel like a passenger on a high speed train,
hurtling along a track so fast the scenery blurs.
Like my pekingese, I would like to have a wider space to meander through
for a little while--something we all need from time to time.

Many people are familiar with  Max Ehrmann's Desiderata
in which he says:
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
Sometimes we live so often in the noise and haste
that we forget about the need for silence,
the restorative power of stillness. 

Erhmann also wrote these lesser known lines from A Prayer:
Lift up my eyes from the earth,
and let me not forget the uses of the stars.

photo courtesy of

I like that.
The lines seem to hold layers of truth
and present a mystery I'd like to contemplate further--
when I find the time.
Soon, I hope.

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