Negative Space and the Law of Nature

treesYesterday at work, I noticed a poinsettia plant forgotten and slowly dying on top of a filing cabinet. With sadness in my heart, I asked myself, “How could I have let this suffer so?”

To be alive is to suffer, and to suffer is to be alive.  There is no doubt that suffering is hard and sometimes brutally unbearable, but it is an inescapable  law of nature.

I woke up this morning cloaked in my own suffering.  I thought to myself, “I am in a really negative space.”

I don’t want to suffer.  None of us do, but when I said the words, “negative space” to myself, I suddenly thought of what that means to an artist.  In essence, it is empty space.  It is the space within, between, and around objects.  Every positive space is surrounded by negative space.  It is needed to make a painting or drawing balanced and whole and beautiful.

Today we are having a big snow storm and I am looking out the window and I can see that the ground is already covered in a blanket of white.  If I look at it with an artist’s eye, I see that the whiteness of the earth and sky is the negative space.  It is the emptiness that holds the trees and makes them appear upright and strong.  The effect is a  landscape painting  full of simplicity, vulnerability, strength, and beauty.

How does the artist’s negative space relate to suffering?  I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, maybe suffering is an opportunity to empty something out, to create a canvas where the positive space can shine more beautifully.

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