An essential concept in design theory is the use of negative space: the area around and in between the subject matter. Basically, the idea is that what you leave out is as important as what you put in. For example, if I decided to paint a landscape, the spaces of sky and the deep shadows help support the shape of the trees. Even though the object (the positive space) is what people tend to notice, the negative space is what keeps the eye moving through and around the painting. The cooperation between the positive and negative spaces make the painting continually engaging.
The same can be said of the mind.
This past month, I found myself on an unexpected journey of fascinating concepts about the fundamentals of my beliefs. As I struggled to examine my mindset about God, love, humility, relationships and suffering, I become acutely aware that I needed to challenge my every thought. My mind moved through negative space where I struggled to write for I could not articulate the inner quest. What I held as foundational was as important as what I did not hold as foundational. The question What is left out? kept my mind engaged. As I transitioned from being the object to being the space around the object, I found myself on the precipice of reorientation of assumptions and beliefs.
Those negative spaces in my mind helped to form positive thoughts:
- Having a disease is just a physical condition under which I function. My suffering is not the object in my life’s painting; it is the negative space which helps to frame my portrait.
- My image is not only in the likeness of God, but I share that image with all of humankind. When I suffer, others suffer; and, when others suffer, I suffer. In our suffering, we share our humanity; just as in our joy, we share our humanity.
- The negative space around each person paints a picture of how they are joined to the next person. In return, they then become the negative space of the next person. Each one of us is the object and the non-object.
Let us begin to experience the world through our neighbor’s eyes; let their sorrows be our sorrows and their joys our joys.