Empty to Empty
Despite having so many things to do and entertain ourselves, most people in the United States are unhappy. GDP is up, GNH (Gross National Happiness) is down. How could it be that as we work more, our quality of life diminishes?
Work has become one of many fixes to offset an empty life of despair. “Occupation” means being occupied with something else. We are a culture that distracts itself purposely like putting 50 sunblock on to repel the sun’s natural rays. We are consumed by our hunger for consumption, and decaying our life energies in small and petty gratifications that lessen our sense of aliveness. Why?
People do what they do because they have nothing more compelling to do. Without a better place to go, conditioning from the past takes over like a vacuum invited to suck up what’s there. Fear, cynicism, and judgment take the wheel in the conversation with life. When we bring these to our current reality, they shape our patterns of behavior through successive reactions and responses that ultimately become automatic over time through repetition. Our personality shapes our reality as we relate more with habitual thought than our intimacy with the immediate experience. This leads to two trends:
- Change our personality (ourselves)
- Change our environment (our life content)
Both seem like decent proposals, yet they neglect a fundamental boobie trap that ambushes success. They’re motivated by something unwanted that must be removed. And once it’s removed, so too does the action taken to remove it. When this occurs, the symptom (bad self; bad environment) tends to resurface. We come back to a common theme swelling within us: something is wrong and I have to fix it to be happy. I call this the “return to despair.” You begin without and you end without. Temporary triumph leads to disappearances.
To begin with, the action is organized from emptiness and despair. When we think we’ve filled the hole, whatever we do doesn’t quench our thirst. Whether it be material items, or drug, or sex, or emotional conflict, compulsive thinking, overworking, self-medicating practices, coping, none of these have any lasting effects to fill the void we desperately attempt to offset. These elements bring emptiness right back, in fact emptiness increases greater than before.
We become susceptive to short term lived arousals to regulate the stress of a life trapped in circumstances out of our control. We seek temporary fixes that we keep doing despite the negative consequences.
We need the “fix” to keep the emptiness away again and again despite negative consequences. The fix is a substitute for real living. The more fix, the more emptiness continues in a vicious cycle. Do we end the fix or the emptiness? Neither becomes possible because they have a dangerous love affair.
We overeat, over-consume, over-indulge, and end up sick later. Our quick fixes are like throwing water on a squeaky wheel, which temporarily goes away. But over time the wheel rusts and decays. What we gratify ends up killing us.
Attempting to offset the same ole same ole we break our traditions to find a better high than before, only to find that we’re moving furniture around in the prison cell of our past. This is like a teenage party ninja hopping from club to club to find a better hit than the last one. We come up with better responses like this and call it learning from experience.
What if instead of the source of action was a different one than emptiness? What if it was a sincere heartfelt interest in creating something that matters? Emptiness wouldn’t be relevant to such a thing. It would still be there but the aspiration wouldn’t arise from “lack of something missing.” Instead the urge is made of wanting to bring something into life that didn’t exist before.
Creating isn’t about satisfaction, in fact creators don’t seek to fill this part of themselves, instead they seek to resolved unlived creations they seek to bring into being. As you hear this you begin to recognize the missing piece in our life building process that we all want most: involvement.
To get involvement, we must take another interest to heart than ourselves; one in which we are challenged by a choice to create something that matters to us. This choice requires that we step outside what is reasonable and attainable and be honest to our true desires and aspirations. Empty or non-empty is not a prerequisite for creating. Instead power flows from our creations, not our moods or attitudes. This must be why correcting bad attitudes don’t make people better creators, they just get better attitudes which for some can be a lifetime of self-improvement.
Empty, bored, depressed, anxious, sad, glad; we all have an emotional circuitry within us. We feel what we feel. Yet our creations we create: relationships, careers, projects, goals, aspirations, health; all of these subject matter that we can choose to create as we envision it. Creating begins with a lovely image of the future you seek to create. It starts with a different kind of emptiness than the one of despair and discomfort that we’ve been describing.
The emptiness in the creative process is one of bringing nothing with you. To create, you actually start with nothing, but not the nothing composed of despair; as if the desired outcome is sought to remove the unwanted current condition. You work on behalf of a future creation and build on it as it emerges, instead of remove something unwanted. It is created separate from what you know. This you might call “making space” or “creating a future rather than predicting a future.”
You begin with an idea. The germination of this idea expands on itself like a tiny seed which tendrils into a tree with branches. Then you learn to see keenly what is going on now in comparison to what you want to create. Action is taken to reveal new information and capacity building through adjustments between what is working or not working.
We must empty out emptiness; come to terms with the face that we actually are. Nothing will cure it. We can only know it and be known by it. It is wider space within us that has no need to change a thing. It is nowhere, no thing, no form, just vastness and space. It’s nature is resourcefulness. It is the passage into something wanting to take form; a rich space out which creations come forth. It isn’t made of scarcity; it isn’t made of a self; rather it is the silence where structures emerge.
All that can be spoken about it is truth disconfirming the past. It is truth that hasn’t happened yet; knowledge not ready embodied; pregnant with potential. It’s like creating a clearing in yourself; making room for something other than what you know. It tickles and quells to be known and described just as it is—truth telling without any argument.
Truth-telling is required to describe the current reality you have, to know what to change and where to change. Notice that none of this is born from the need to be fulfilled or satisfied; these aren’t used in the creative process. Bad and good days, highs and lows are all taken into account and normal. Creating isn’t about these conditions because circumstances, feelings, etc don’t drive action in the creative process; choices drive action.
This obedience to a choice is what leaves the need to be satisfied or fulfilled in the bleachers. It is a shift of dominance away from reacting and responding to creating. You might call it a shift of orientation or terms with life. Learning happens by bringing creations into existence that you deeply desire.
Would this make us a lot happier? I believe it would. It would get us out of our heads and more interested in bringing something to the world through us than to constantly affirm our existence, or find who we are. We’re the only species on the planet that’s overly concerned with who they are. Why aren’t dogs concerned too?
Make self-improvement a hobby, you don’t need it to create what you want.