“Paint your pallet blue and grey, Look out on a summer’s day, With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.” Don McLean’s lyrics tell the haunting story of the darkness…the emptiness that was the soul of Vincent Van Gogh.
There’s a lot of emptiness in the universe…an infinity of darkness in this world. In your soul, too, just as there is in mine. I sometimes think, however, that the darkness is infinitely darker because it is the unexplored part of the soul. As such, it is for many of us a foreboding place…fearful…even terrifying. Like death itself.
Yes, I got to thinking about this when our nation paid honor yesterday to John Glenn who courageously ventured into the universe nearly a generation ago. The heavens have long fascinated us…called out to us…instilled in us an insatiable curiosity to explore its depths, or heights. Perhaps it is because we came from the heavens, did we not? Curiosity is encoded in our DNA. Maybe. Few of us, however, will ever have the opportunity that came to John Glenn…to venture, even briefly, into the emptiness of outer space.
What we can do, nonetheless, is to travel into the emptiness of inner space. If you think about it, inner space mirrors outer space. In other words, what we’re learning about the infinity of nothingness that is beyond us we’re also learning about the infinity of nothingness that is within us. According to molecular biologists, each cell in your body consists of mostly–nothing.
In my meditations this morning, I imagined, as I often do, entering into the infinity of inner space. What I do is picture myself stepping up a flight of stairs until I reach a level landing. Before me lies a universe of nothingness…just darkness…emptiness. This is a world I’ve come to explore…and with great curiosity, even joy. It is the same world I would suggest you explore, too. If you do not, your inner world may become increasingly foreboding…fearful…off limits…obscure, even threatening…what it must have been to Van Gogh himself.
I would recommend you make friends with your darkness…your emptiness…what some call your “shadow self”…the nothingness that is mostly everywhere around you. For example, look around the room where you are now. What do you see more than nothing else? No, I said that correctly. What do you see more than “nothing” else?
Nothing–ness. Pay attention this day to nothing! It’s everywhere. I suspect you’ll make the same discovery I’ve made. It is not nearly as frightful as you might think. In fact, what we now know is that it is out of nothing that EVERYTHING emerges. You and I came from Nothing. Isn’t that what Genesis teaches? Creatio ex nihilo? It is from nothing we emerge and to nothing we will return. Why be afraid?
On the next clear night, go out and look up into the heavens. Pay more attention to what you do not see than to what you see. That is to say, instead of looking at the stars or seeking to identify the constellations, be aware of the emptiness. There’s more of nothing than there is anything.
God is nothing, too…she/he/it is no-thing as well. So, here’s the spiritual lesson…the same one Saint Paul tried to teach the Corinthians. If you will train yourself to be aware of the emptiness that is all around you, that is within you…that is REALLY YOU, I suspect you’ll make the discovery that what you think of as Nothing is really Everything! Saint Paul said, “What is UNSEEN is more real than what is SEEN” (2 Cor. 4:18).
To discover Nothing is to make life’s grandest discovery. It is to find the Mystery of Life itself…the Source and secret of happiness.