Emptiness is often regarded as undesirable. Empty spaces, empty time, empty minds, empty lives—our instinct is to fill them all up. It’s uncomfortable to look at the holes. Who knows what unsavory characters and frightening monsters lurk in those dark corners?
For those of who don’t believe in monsters, there’s another fear lurking below the surface: if we don’t fill the spaces up ourselves, someone (or something) else will, and in a manner not likely to be of our choosing. So, for the interest of all, we tell ourselves to add things into these spaces, to make them non-empty.
There’s certainly a lot of evidence that points to empty spaces as blight. Empty storefronts invite crime through the lack of vigilant eyes; feelings of emptiness and loneliness increase the likelihood of depression and anger if untreated. There’s no arguing that unfilled time creates an uncomfortable lack of purpose; the more unfilled time we find ourselves with, the weaker our minds become, leaving the mind suspect to forgetfulness and dementia.
But that’s not to say that a little emptiness can’t be a good thing. In our ever-busier lives, emptiness becomes a place to pause, reorient, and recalibrate. The rare moment of mindlessness is the escape from the grind. It’s the relief from our constant obligations, a small place to forget ourselves for awhile.
More importantly, it reminds us of how much we have in our lives. Only in that gap can we remember to be thankful for those people, moments, and possessions in our lives. If we were only to push forward, would we ever realize what we’re leaving behind? Would we ever learn what we truly value for ourselves?