The Positive of the Negative
In a growing consciousness that values only the positive, we find it difficult to see the positive values of the negative.
We value life. But do we value death?
As soon as we are born the process of dying begins. Life is the beginning of death. Meeting is the beginning of parting. Death gives meaning to life inasmuch as parting gives meaning to meeting. If we know we will die, we learn how to appreciate and savour life. As R.H. Blyth says
“..death is that which gives life its value, as the blackboard gives meaning to the white chalk.”
When we think of death we think of the physical act of dying. But right through life we are dying to our inauthentic selves, peeling off the layers of our conditioning to better understand and experience the Truth, Beauty and Goodness of Life. All pain is caused by our being inordinately attached to something or someone. We need to die to our attachments.
Let us look at attachments which we usually do not perceive as attachments. For instance we may be attached to our resentments. We refuse to die to them. We refuse to forgive. We get fixated in the past. We carry these resentments around as a badge of honour justifying our victimhood and behaviour. By not dying to our resentments, we don’t experience the freedom of Life. If we do not know what it means to die how can we know what it means to live. The wood must die to give rise to the flame. Which gives off heat and light. And if we do not know what it means to live how can we know what it means to die. Life is a continuous life-death experience.
We value filled spaces. But do we value emptiness?
If a page was not blank could one have the freedom to create whatever one wanted on it? If a glass was not empty would one be able to fill it with water to quench one’s thirst? If a screen was not blank would one be able to screen images and movies? If a pipe was not empty would water be able to flow through it?
Emptiness is necessary to contain something, and to allow the flow of something to take place. Emptiness comes first. There is value in emptiness.
We have been conditioned to having all spaces filled. We fear emptiness. Because then we have to face the insecurity of creating. We need everything to be pre-digested and given to us to consume. Our minds are filled with knowledge, concepts, perceptions, ideas et al. There is no space to breathe. It’s as if we are choking on a surfeit of information. We live on the answers being provided. Google knows it all. We are not willing to ask the deep questions; in fact as Rilke, the poet said we need ‘to live the question’ so that gradually the answer is revealed to us. We need to be empty first to be filled with Truth.
In Jazz, the younger musicians play according to the music that is there. They are stuck to the rules. Their spaces are filled. The older and experienced jazz musicians know that they have to forego all their theories and preconceptions and play intuitively as they go along. Sensing the mood and being mindful of where the tune is taking them. As Miles Davis put it, “Don’t play what’s there; play what’s not there.” They need to seek out the empty spaces in between the rules.
We value things. But do we value nothing?
Samuel Beckett said “Nothing is more real than nothing.” But “Nothing” is not merely nothing. As Les Fehmi (Director Emeritus, Princeton Biofeedback Centre) and Jim Robbins (Award winning journalist) have shown through a series of experiments on relaxation methods that focussing on “nothing is a great and robust healer and is critical to the health and well — being of our nervous system.”
We are in continuous need of a concept, or idea or image to grasp. By focussing on nothing we realise what timelessness, space and silence is. A void. An eternity. A moment with no past or future. Just the present. We are constrained by what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch. The visible. We are caught in the world we have constructed. We need to enter this other world of “nothing”. To free ourselves from the chains of our conditioning and stress. And give our brains a vacation. And heal ourselves. Becoming aware of ‘nothing’ has value.
As we begin to see the positive of the negative, we will gradually realise that all experiences in life are positive/negative. We need to be grateful for whatever befalls us. Inasmuch as
“Receiving trouble is receiving grace;
Receiving happiness is receiving a trial”