The Treat Truck from Neverland

There is an ice-cream treat truck that that circles our neighborhood during the summer. Actually there are a number of ice-cream trucks that make the rounds through our neighborhood due to the sheer number of children in the area. But this one isn’t like any that I’ve seen before.

First off, it’s not a truck, but a van, and it doesn’t have the traditional pictures of dancing ice-cream cones, or even pictures of the treats themselves, but multi-colored swirls on the sides, and a simple “Ice Cream” stenciled in elegant script on the sides. But the thing that really sets this treat-truck apart from the others is the music.

Most treat-trucks play jaunty children’s tunes, the better to catch the attention of the younger set. But this one not only has its music playing in a minor key, but it’s playing things like “Morning Has Broken” and “Imagine” instead of the standard kid stuff.  Yes, I know, this particular treat truck may sell something other than ice cream, but that is not the point.

This particular afternoon as I was sitting out in my yard enjoying the sun and the breeze, I heard the minor-key Ice-Cream truck’s melody blending weirdly in with the sounds of the birds and the rustling of the branches, and I had a sudden vision of this van going from neighborhood to neighborhood and the lines being composed not of excited children clutching dollar bills in their sticky fingers, but of jaded and world-weary adults with sad and empty eyes lining up outside of the truck, offering up their souls for the chance that the ice-cream truck would take them away, far away; away to someplace else; anyway but here. That it would take them away from the pointlessness of existence and the sameness of their lives, or at least offer them the hope and the dreams that continue somehow, in spite of seeming success and achievement, to elude them.

There is such emptiness in the world today.  So many people are searching; searching for something to fill the emptiness; something that will satisfy their craving for substance and depth and honesty. They line up for any activity or idea or belief that they think might possibly fill the void and, if it proves to be insubstantial, they continue on to something that will provide them with a diversion; something that will numb the pain and the emptiness and help them pass the time.

If only they knew.

If only they knew that they have the answers inside of themselves.  That there is nothing to “find”, that if they truly want to fill the void all they have to do is look into their heart in order to find the joy and the substance is missing in their lives.  If they knew, maybe they wouldn’t go chasing after that treat truck.

The Empty Circle

There is a yearning in every human heart; a seeming emptiness that cries out to be filled.

Some people feel this emptiness as a lack. They feel that there is something tangible that is missing in their lives and attempt to fill it with whatever makes the feel better; drugs, sex, alcohol, food, shopping. It doesn’t seem to matter. They feel that if they can just get enough of whatever thing or experience has made them feel good in the past, that they can fill up this emptiness even if it is a temporary fulfillment.

Some people feel that this is a spiritual emptiness; a yearning for God. I’ve heard sermons where preachers claim that it is the voice of divinity or the Holy Spirit speaking to the heart; that if an individual just give up enough of themselves, surrenders themselves; that God will take away the pain and emptiness and fill it with something even better.

But what if it isn’t an emptiness at all?

Zen Buddhism has a symbol – an almost circle called an ensō.  This almost circle is painted with a single brush stroke and it is symbolic of the moment when the mind is free to simply let the body/spirit create.  It  is said that with practice the mind can be taught to leave that center space open on purpose in order to give the body and the spirit room to create the life that you have always wanted.

Seemingly related is the center point of the Chinese Bagua; the eight sided (nine spaced) cosmological chart that is used in order to practice Feng Shui (the art of placement).  In this particular practice the center point – the center space of the Bagua is always (if possible) left open and empty so as to invite in new energy and to give you room to create the type of home that you truly desire.

Indeed, what if this openness; this space inside of each heart is anything but empty?

Think about it.  What if this space that we perceive of as emptiness and equate with loneliness and lack is actually a part of the system design of our body/soul interface?

It’s not that far-fetched really.  All of the most useful and practical of machines are made not only with specifically designed working parts, but with spaces in which those parts can work. Gears have to turn.  Levers have to shift.  Even when it comes to computers, there has to be memory space in order for calculations to be made; places for all those ones and zeroes to gather and process.

What if – instead of fighting the emptiness; instead of trying so desperately to fill it up, we instead embraced it?

What if we accepted that empty space inside of our minds, hearts and spirits as the space in which dreams come true; as the workspace of our souls where it can get to work on putting together the life that we have always wanted?  What if it is here, in the emptiness that our conversations with our souls can begin?

Perhaps then the emptiness would take on an entirely different meaning.  Instead of emptiness and loneliness we would find peace, comfort and understanding, and we would stop trying so desperately to fill something that is simply a necessary part of the way that we were designed.



The Spaces In Between

Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow

~T.S. Eliot

Have you ever noticed that as humans we tend to focus on the tangible; the object, the sound, the smell, the taste, the texture and never the spaces in between that give the objects their shape?

My eyes read the lines of text in a book or on a computer screen, but what lies in the spaces in between the text? For it is only by including those spaces that we can form words and sentences.

My ears hear the drum beats in the music playing on the radio – but what is it that is not heard in the silences; those spaces in between; those pauses in the music without which there would be no music, just a continual cacophony of noise?

My mouth tastes the food that is placed into it; it chews and swallows, but there is a moment, just before I swallow when I am neither chewing nor swallowing, and without that pause there would be no differential between the two.

And when it comes to breathing, what exists in the instant between the exhalation and the inhalation; that pause where I am not breathing but transitioning from one to the other?

Perhaps, once upon a time, mankind actually paid attention to the spaces in between.  Perhaps we listened to the silences and read between the lines.  Perhaps we once saw the beauty in emptiness; in the space where something could be, but was not; and felt with our hearts the pure power of potentiality.

But somewhere along the line we became obsessed with filling up the spaces.  I don’t care if it’s in traffic or in conversation; in home decorating or in our belief systems; for some reason we feel that those spaces just have to be filled.

Maybe we feel that by filling up the spaces we can reassure ourselves of our own solidity (when in truth, physics dictates that we are anything but).

Perhaps it is because in filling the silences we no longer have to listen to that inner voice that tells us that we are more than this shell of a body; that there is more to life than this physical reality.

And perhaps the true mystery of life lies not in the knowing and the becoming – but in the spacesin between; in the silences of the symphony; in the darkness behind our eyes when we blink; in the blinding moment of sexual release when the world shrinks away to a pinpoint and everything else ceases to exist; in the pauses between heartbeats when we can feel the true nature of who and what we really are.

Consider that it may be in the not-doing that the secrets of the universe lay; in the non-tangible that the truth of reality waits patiently to be discovered.

And perhaps, just perhaps in learning how to read between the lines; in learning how to listen to the silences between the sounds, in pausing between heartbeats to appreciate those moments when we don’t exist; perhaps then and there we will find what we’ve been looking for and in so doing become so much more than we could ever have imagined.