IT’S IMPORTANT TO THINK ABOUT SPACE
Here in Vancouver, B.C. there is a growing appreciation of space. It’s really because the cost of housing is increasing a lot faster than the income of gen xers and younger generations.
In usual circumstances, we don’t really contemplate the idea of space. However, with the decreasing living space in our lives there is definitely more value placed on physical spaces.
Back in the day, I thought about space during my art history class.
I remember the importance of being aware of negative spaces and the role of space in the composition and dynamism of a piece.
But what insights can physical space give us about the non-physical spaces we experience such as silences, pauses in conversation, or spaces in time?
What information can space provide us about life?
Alan Watts believes it is important to increase our understanding of space, and I agree.
In What is Zen?, he contrasts the way the Japanese and the U.S. conceptualize space with the Japanese placing great value in space due to a heavy Zen influence, and the U.S. viewing it as “nothingness”. He goes as far as saying that “to the degree that you are unaware of space, you are unaware of the fullness of your nature.”
Yeah. I think so too.
SPACE: THE PLENUM
“no point is more central than this, that empty space is not empty. It is the seat of the most violent physics.”
– John Archibald Wheeler
One reason why we may view space as empty is because there are no visible objects occupying it. We focus on the physical objects around us and so any space without objects are considered empty.
But this notion is incompatible with quantum mechanics.
In The Fabric of the Cosmos, Brian Greene states that in pre-quantum physics, empty space was considered to be space where there are no particles and all fields have a value of zero. However, through the uncertainty principle and discoveries involving the detection of vacuum fluctuations, it has been confirmed that, under this definition, empty space does not exist.
In this case, while a field may have a value of zero, its rate of change is random and so the value of zero is only very brief. Instead, it is now postulated that space is full of particles that jitter frantically in space.
At the same time, space, itself, possesses its own quantum jitters.
Thus, space is never “empty”.
THE INFINITELY FULL SPACE
“Space is not empty. It is full…The universe is not separate from this cosmic sea of energy.”
– David Bohm
There are many who believe that the wholeness of space, including all that is within it, create a more complete view of reality.
Japanese author D.T. Suzuki characterizes space as having a valuable, infinite quality. He describes emptiness as ““a zero full of infinite possibilities…a void of inexhaustible contents.”
Also, the Dalai Lama has spoken about things he calls space particles.
These space particles, which are originally found in the Kalachakra texts, are described by the Dalai Lama as subtle particles in space that contain the substance and causes of everything in the universe.
I take this to mean that space is where we find the answers. That this is where everything we want to know exists.
Wandering, daydreaming, observing, and just allowing ourselves to be bored are all spaces in our lives where we allow those “infinite possibilities” to reveal themselves to us.
FULL AND EMPTY
“Physical objects are not in space, but these objects are spatially extended. In this way the concept empty space loses its meaning.”
– Albert Einstein
In The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard uses a house as metaphor for the universe. He talks about the role of memory in our conception of space. That the objects we place in a house we do to, in a sense, situate our memories (intangible) with objects (tangible) because “time ceases to quicken memory”.
Bachelard goes on to say that “for the great dreamers of corners and holes nothing is ever empty, the dialectics of full and empty only correspond to two geometrical non-realities.” In other words, our conceptions of empty and full are abstractions created as an attempt to understand our relationships with the perceivable world.
MY REFLECTIONS ON SPACE
When I think about space and how we pay such little attention to it, some questions come up for me.
Can hoarding, buying, and generally filling spaces with objects be, on some level, a result of viewing space as emptiness, or nothingness?
Could it follow that viewing space as nothingness, coupled with the societal emphasis on individualism, produces a negative view of space that is equated with aloneness by some?
Spaces in Time:
There are many of us who fill up our time with activities, chores, and just doing, doing, and more doing. Could this be a way of avoiding the thoughts, emotions, and realities that emerge in the spaces of time between doing?
Spaces in Communication:
So many questions….
I think I’ll just do a post on this one.