Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Emptiness Beyond Hunger

Waiting to be filled.
In our last adventure I brought up the word Emptiness as a dynamic currency exchanged in certain circumstances. I want to unpack this word and share with you the view that I have of this condition...

Underlying all experiences, like a humming noise you're so used to it rarely comes to your attention, is the paradoxical emptiness-yet-sufficiency of Being itself. Experiences come and go, life waxes and then wanes, but a part of us remains unchanged, ever-new, ever-content, without hunger or desire. I could give you the Vedic breakdown of how a physical form comes to nestle around a spirit, and remind you about karma and other classic concepts that have been bandied about in the West since Paramahansa Yogananda arrived on American shores - but I am no scholar, and really the words themselves don't matter so much as the feeling I need to convey on these topics I have observed and lived in a visceral way.

Emptiness feels a bit alien to our day to day experiences - after all, we are driven by real, hot signals within our own biology to Eat, Mate and Shop at Ikea. However, as the experiences pile up from day to day and year to year, even the good ones take their toll. (New study has discovered that wakefulness (conscious experience) is actually toxic to the brain, and during sleep the brain is flushed and healed.)

The feeling of emptiness starts to become unavoidable, and you have to figure out how to respond. Maybe you end up saying to your friend or spouse or family "Let's go out to dinner." You may need a place to meet and question this feeling, and let others do the cooking. Or you may need the time away from the routine to contemplate and share. You may need a way to feel new - by incorporating something new into your life via your mouth and stomach. Sometimes it's hard to tell emptiness from hunger. You end up in a restaurant trading your emptiness for fullness, while the restaurant accepts your emptiness in return. See previous post.

So, the call of this emptiness within you is like a little tug on your attention. Like driving by some beautiful meadow every day for years and then one time noticing it and wondering what would happen if you stopped the car and walked out into it. And then driving by dozens more times until at some point you get a flat tire and instead of fixing it right away, you find your legs carrying you into that space. (Here's a song I wrote about this exact situation.) We tend to avoid the empty until we have a breakdown.

The call from the emptiness gets stronger in me the more I work, the longer my days go and the more I push my body. Exhaustion brings me a feeling like I am close to God. It changes my perspective and sense of sight, and the internal monologue of my own mind grows distinct.

At some point we humans lose interest in the drama of it all and start asking "why?" As any parent of a toddler can tell you this is the question that can never resolve except at the point of infinity. There is always a pre-existing moment or condition to be explained every time you give an answer to this question, so the line of questioning inevitably ends with the Big Bang and then a leap into whatever came before it, before space/time was created and all was one. (If you enjoy speculation on matters of Deep Time, I recommend this surprising series of folk-tales on the topic.)

Anything that leads to infinity or stirs our sense of nothingness helps us understand ourselves. Also, the contradictions of language help turn ideas on their head.

For example the word "nobody," is another name for God (that One condition outside space/time.)

"Nobody knows why." Right! That One with no body, no form, that is outside of space/time, has a perspective on mysteries opaque to human consciousness.

"Nothing can help us now!" Exactly the opposite of the hopeless statement it seems to be. The physical limits of the situation can only be changed by a shift in the underlying condition that we have in common, that is not a thing at all, but a no-thing.

Which brings us to the location of this source-condition: "Nowhere."

We can't look around ourselves and seek the source of a feeling of emptiness. We can't look at an Ikea catalogue and divine the nature of our condition. We can certainly furnish a very modern room for our condition that way!  But does the condition even care?!

The emptiness is, and always is, and always will be yours. You can trade a part of its infinity and still have plenty left. You can sell it as art. You can drink to forget it. But it's the one thing you can't lose.

Tell 'em, Tom!

Embrace it, feel it, and be empty. Happy. Empty.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


I want to describe to you a kind of unseen commerce that occurs in restaurants.
Not theft. Not graft. Something elemental that you have all participated in, likely without knowing it.

There is an exchange that happens beyond the tidy commerce of receiving a meal and paying your bill. It's not a long story. Are you in?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Little Dose of Summer

With school underway, it's time for a moment of reflection on the essential pleasures of summer. I would like to offer you a taste of peace and renewal from my own summer this year.

Here. Try a wild blueberry.

Or a Blueberry-Rhubarb cobbler.

Take a moment to consider the Arch.

Here's a good omen for the beginning of a Road Trip.

And here's a good destination. Great Sand Bay, in the Keweenaw Peninsula. The water and wind are chilly, but you'll never forget a swim in Lake Superior. Wears a body out in the best way.

Follow me. We have a fire pit by the water.

There's your marshmallow stick. . . We're driving home tomorrow.

Welcome back to the city.