Another excerpt from my manuscript: The Commonzense of Saint James
Our lives are busy, and our minds are busy as well. There is no space left in our days, or seemingly, in the world around us. The empty space of quiet solitude has become synonymous with bad, and emptiness is now regarded negatively. We honestly feel it is necessary and worthy to fill up all the vacant space in our lives and in our world. Unfortunately, this leaves us with little room for new ideas, let alone space for those in desperate need of our attention and help. As the Sōtō Zen monk and teacher Shunryu Suzuki wrote in his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, [and] it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”
Openness with others and the world around us requires the emptiness of quiet reflection, and this is more than most of us are willing to give. A man I know likes to say, “I have an open mind—it’s just that the opening is very narrow.” Unfortunately, this cute saying adequately sums up his disrespect for others and the world around him. He claims he is too set in his ways to change. Why should he change, anyway? In his mind, he truly believes that his way is the right way, and sadly, the world simply changes without him. If our lives are full of our own opinions and assumptions, how can we embrace and accept anything new and different without first emptying our minds?
“I think about that ’empty’ space a lot. That emptiness is what allows for something to actually evolve in a natural way. I’ve had to learn that over the years – because one of the traps of being an artist is to always want to be creating, always wanting to produce.” -Meredith Monk