Sunday, February 26, 2012

Empty Again I

Scott Bradley


Damned if I didn't wake up empty again. Fortunately, I can write this post and start to fill up again. But the filling won't be the kind that makes full; nor is the emptiness the kind which enables fullness.

The emptiness of which I speak is that which is experienced as a sense of lack. Something is missing. It is understandable, therefore, that I should wish to fill it. But this sense of lack is much too deep to ever fill.

There is another emptiness, a positive emptiness, that is not a sense of lack, but of even the loss of lack. This emptiness, though different in kind, actually has the same root as the negative emptiness of lack. Root emptiness is not something spun out of the ether; it is fundamental to self-aware existence. It is a given of human existence. This, at least, is how it seems to me. This being the case, it is largely unavoidable. The question is what we do with it.

Before we can consciously do anything about emptiness, we must experience it. But, though I would suggest that there is no one who does not in fact experience it, we are typically able to cover it up sufficiently to keep it from over-powering our conscious selves; we are able to continue on with the facade of normal life. This is, in fact, to 'be normal'; this is 'mental health' and 'sanity'.

'Sanity' is, of course, a relative judgment. And it is possible, in this case of smothered awareness, to describe it as a form of 'insanity'. But it may very well be that some form of insanity is required for us to remain relatively sane. This being the case, quite apart from the 'requirement' of wuwei that we let people find their own way, for the most part we have no business trying to shake others free of their coping mechanisms. Should we do so, it is likely that we are simply exercising one of our own, just as writing this post is my way of coping with this morning's emptiness.

There is danger in becoming too intimate with emptiness as lack. Should one do so, and fail to find a new means of coping, depression and other unhappy emotional expressions can follow. Yet, if one is to discover emptiness as the loss of lack, that is, an emptiness of freedom, then it must begin with the experience of emptiness as lack. In this way, one becomes aware of the root emptiness of our essential reality.

The path to positive, 'fillable', emptiness, therefore, must pass through the negative experience of emptiness. In this case, negative emptiness is a potentially positive experience. Never is there a call for the rejection or negation of the full spectrum of the human experience.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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