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Friday, June 1, 2012

The Importance of What ISN'T

Lately, I have taken a bit of an interest in Taoism.  I am not sure exactly how or why this has crept into my consciousness, but it has, so I guess that I will just go with it.

One of the ideas in the Tao Te Ching that really got me thinking is the idea of what is NOT.  In my existence on this planet, thus far anyway, I have focused a lot of my attention, maybe even all of my attention on what IS.  In other words, the tangible, physical objects that make up my day to day reality.

Lao Tzu talks about the clay making up the pot and the materials that make up the house as examples of these physical realities... and I think that we can agree, that these things (in other words, what IS), are important.  But have you ever considered the importance of what IS NOT?  For instance, the space created by the materials that make up the pot -- isn't that space actually what makes it useful and gives it its essence?  Don't we actually live in the space created by the materials that make up our home?  And yet, these spaces are what ISN'T.

If it helps, think about it in terms of yin and yang.  You really can't have one without the other -- you need both to make up the whole.

How many other 'IS NOT's' can you think of?  Probably many... after all, there are essentially an infinite amount of them.  One that I would like to draw your attention to though is the 'IS NOT' of you.  Your body well, that is the 'IS'.  What then, would be the 'IS NOT' of you... that which we could call your essence?

What?  Are you waiting for an answer?  I don't have one for you - but if you sit with it for a bit, you might be able to come up with one on your own.

We pay a lot of attention to what IS in our lives... especially our bodies and our material belongings.  And I am not saying that this isn't valid - of course it is!  However, I am suggesting that what we have been focusing so much of our time/energy on is only HALF of the equation.

Can you expand your thinking to include the other half?

My brain hurts just thinking about this, but hey, that means that I am expanding right?

Marebare xoxo

For your reference, the part of the Tao Te Ching that I am referring to here is Chapter 11:

The Uses of Not

Thirty spokes
meet in the hub.
Where the wheel isn't
is where it's useful.

Hollowed out,
clay makes a pot.
Where the pot's not
is where it's useful.

Cut doors and windows
to make a room.
Where the room isn't
there's room for you.

So the profit in what is
is in the use of what isn't.

(From Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching ~ An English Version by Ursula K. LeGuin)

1 comment:

  1. Ha! Well, since I've been deeply enmeshed in desk decluttering for the past few weeks, I must say that I have learned a great appreciation for that which isn't! I keep asking myself... do I need 35 pads of paper that haven't been touched for 5 years, or do I need the space? When you look at it that way, it all becomes much clearer.