Friday, April 1, 2011



Everything that we do in the world is bordered on by nothingness. This nothingness is one of the ways that death appears to us; it is one of the faces of death. The life of the soul is about the transfiguration of nothingness. In a certain sense, nothing new can emerge if there is not a space for it. That empty space is the space that we called nothingness. R. D. Laing, the wonderful Scottish psychiatrist, used to say, 'There is nothing to be afraid of.' This means that there is no need to be afraid of anything but also that there is nothing there to be afraid of, namely, that the nothingness is everywhere, all around us. Because we shrink from this terrain, emptiness and nothingness are undervalued. From a spiritual perspective, they can be recognized as modes of presence of the eternal. The eternal comes to us mainly in terms of nothingness and emptiness. Where there is no space, the eternal cannot visit. Where there is no space, the soul cannot awaken. This is summed up beautifully in a wonderful poem by the Scottish poet Norman MacCaig:


I give you an emptiness,

I give you a plenitude,

unwrap them carefully -

one's as fragile as the other -

and when you thank me

I'll pretend not to notice the doubt in your voice

when you say they're just what you wanted.

Put them on the table by your bed.

When you wake in the morning

they'll have gone through the door of sleep

into your head. Wherever you go

they'll go with you and

wherever you are you'll wonder,

smiling about the fullness

you can't add to and the emptiness

that you can fill.

This beautiful poem suggests the dual rhythm of emptiness and plentitude at the heart of the life of the soul. Nothingness is the sister of possibility. It makes an urgent space for that which is new, surprising and unexpected. When you feel nothingness and emptiness gnawing at your life, there is no need to despair. This is a call from your soul, awakening your life to new possibilities. It is also a sign that your soul longs to transfigure the nothingness of your death into the fullness of a life eternal, which no death can ever touch.

Death is not the end; it is rebirth. Our presence in the world is so poignant. The little band of brightness that we call our lifre is poised between the darkness of two unknowns. There is the darkness of the unknown at our origin. We suddenly emerged from this unknown, and the band of brightness called life began. ┼░then, there is the darkness at the end when we disappear again back into the unknown. Samuel Beckett is a wonderful writer who meditated deeply on the mystery of death. His little play Breath is only a few minutes long. First there is the birth cry, then a little breathing and finally the sigh of death. This drama synopsizes what happens in our lives. All of Beckett's work, especially Waiting for Godot, is about death. In other words, because death exists, time is radicaly relativized. All we do here is invent games to pass the time.

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