The Sources of Emptiness

People can be magnificent, giving, caring creatures. But they can be monsters, as well. There’s a battle going on, an undeclared war between humanity as we wish it to be and humanity as it is. We’re soldiers in that war, fighting against an enemy we cannot readily recognize. We are not sure which side we’re on, nor how to identify who is with us and who is against us. The battle is chaotic, confusing, complex. The battlefield is hidden by smoke. We cannot hear gunshots from rifles and pistols, thanks to the explosive percussion of cannons that have rendered us deaf. So we fire our weapons indiscriminately, hoping the damage they do will inflict more pain on the enemy, whoever that is, than on ourselves.


Hard to believe. The second Saturday in October already is upon us. If I lived near the Great River Road in Iowa or Wisconsin, day trips into the countryside would yield autumn experiences; Roadside stands selling pumpkins and small bales of hay. Leaves turning yellow and gold and orange and red. Country markets where caramel apples and winter vegetables beckon travelers in to spend their money. The smell of wood smoke, conjuring images of families sitting around the fireplace, relating their days’ experiences. But I do not live anywhere near the Great River Road. I am distant from Iowa and Wisconsin. I rely on semi-rural Arkansas to to provide an almost real autumn experience. Colorful printed flags on display, in place of changing leaves and actual pumpkins. The smell of asphalt as local roads are skim-coated, readying the roads for the onslaught of winter, whatever winter in an era of climate change may bring.


I feel a need to escape. Escape from this time and place to a more hospitable moment, when humankind was kinder. Less judgmental. Not so greedy. Compassionate. Friendlier. I know, I know. There was never such a time. Humans have never been better than they are today. Selfishness has defined the species from the moment the transition from homo erectus to homo sapiens was complete. Though I wasn’t there, I suspect selfishness was an embedded characteristic even of homo erectus. I cannot imagine selfishness growing into such a powerful force of nature just in the time our species has existed. Selfishness of that depth and breadth and unfathomable weight must have taker much longer to develop. At least that’s what I think.


The words immediately struck me: “…kindhearted as a grandmother, dignified as a king.”  The attribution for those words, which may or may not be valid, was reported as Revelation of Lao Tsu – The Tao. Ultimately, as I think about those words, it becomes clear to me: neither the originator of those words or the concept behind them matter. Nor do the words, in and of themselves, matter. What matters is the mental, intellectual, or emotional outcome that arises from the person who hears or reads or simply thinks about the words. And, if their impact goes so far, the physical expression that emerges as a consequence of exposure to, or thoughts about, the words.

The words that preceded the ones I quoted above are these:

When you realize where you came from, you naturally become tolerant, disinterested, amused

and then the words that captured my imagination:

kindhearted as a grandmother, dignified as a king.”

where you came from… Aha! That gets at the issue. Where is not a place, but a source. The source of the words purports to deliver the source for all…

Each separate being in the universe returns to the common source.

If I contemplated for long enough, I am sure I would dream up dozens of sources: the universe, light from distant galaxies, God (or some semblance of such an entity), the visual “screams” of stars exploding and disappearing into the inky blackness of space, and dozens of additional possibilities. Perhaps, though, there is no true source beyond one’s own mind. Our common source either is everything or nothing. Whatever fills the empty spaces inside our heads—those place-holders are the hiding places for the sources of everything, except for the place-holders themselves. Contemplation consumes one’s intellectual purity, leaving behind an impure mixture of recollection and wishes. And that, as they say, is that. The residue of an inexplicably impossible-to-comprehend experience and thought process.


I woke up so very late this morning; it was after 7:15. For that reason, I feel I’ve wasted a good part of the day, the part of day that begins in darkness. I’ve used time in daylight to perform the functions usually reserved for pre-daylight hours, thus using up daylight hours that could have been devoted to pre-daylight thinking. It’s a shame.  A crying shame.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

I wish you would tell me what you think about this post...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.