Minding the Spaces
Today we talk about minding the spaces, the state of alternative energy in Texas, and how boredom might actually be good for you.
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Today's reading is from chapter 11 of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching from the translation of Gia fu Feng and Jane English:
Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub; It is the center hole that makes it useful. Shape the clay into a vessel; it is the space within that makes it useful. Cut doors and windows for a room; it is the hole that make it useful. Therefore, profit comes from what is there; usefulness from what is not there.
So often in our day to days lives, we look at the spaces in life as something to be filled. We fill our time at work with meetings. Our time at home with TV and social media. When our bellies are empty we often fill them with whatever is easiest and available at the moment. Maybe instead we can learn to work with the spaces in our lives, to not be afraid of them. Because I think to some degree we are. That if we're standing in a long line and our phone dies, we feel a twinge of anxiety as we realize we're going to be confronted with boredom for a while.
If there's one thing we don’t seem to be very good at dealing with, it's boredom. Boredom is linked to behavior issues like bad driving, mindless snacking, binge-drinking, risky sex, and gambling problems. But that might actually be more a result of our discomfort with space than with boredom itself. Because there's actually a lot of new research coming out right now about boredom in neuropsychology and one of the things we're learning is that, just like sleep is important for our ability to parse and store the information we encounter for later recall, boredom seems similarly important. We're also discovering that being bored actually makes it easier for us to be creative, and that people who cope with boredom positively actually have lower rates of anxiety and depression.
I like how in this translation profit is distinguished from usefulness. One of the reasons we're so adverse to the spaces is that they are rarely profitable, and we've been trained toward profit seeking behaviors. But there's a reason the spaces are there to begin with. It's part of the balance of life. And if we can learn to enjoy the spaces, we'll enjoy the rest of it a whole lot more too.
Another good example of the power of the spaces: for the first time ever, wind has surpassed coal as an energy source in Texas, which is the largest consumer of coal in the country. Meanwhile, the state is also doubling up on the amount of solar farms. It is the power of the intangibles, which might not be as profitable for some, but are much more useful to addressing the problems we face.
Today's quote is from Jack Kerouac, a poet, novelist, and one of the primary voices of the Beat Generation:
It's all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don't know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It's a dream already ended. There's nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born.