Emptiness Blessings

From Steven Paulikas's Easter 2020 essay "The World Is Empty Now. How Should We Fill It?" in the New York Times, meta-thoughts on realizing the gifts of emptiness:

... Yet the void created by this crisis may be an unexpected gift. This emptiness presents to us a mystical and uncluttered view of life as we have been living it until a few weeks ago. Life will never be the same. Each day, it becomes more apparent that this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to consider a fundamental question about the spirit and morality of our way of living: Having emptied ourselves, what do we really want to fill our world with once it is time to rebuild?

Now on Sundays as I look out over a field of silent pews, I am reminded that self-emptying is, in fact, a divine virtue. Christian tradition calls it kenosis, the Greek word taken from the famous passage of Paul's Letter to the Philippians, in which he writes, "Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus, who did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself."

Early Christian thinkers viewed Jesus' kenosis is a sign of divine supreme power, not the loss of it. The sight of Jesus' empty tomb was the first sign of his resurrection, believed by Christians to be God's greatest act. Now that I have adjusted somewhat to the emptiness, I find myself keeping vigil with the opportunity of this time, hoping that something better will be on the other side.

The Christian contemplative Cynthia Bourgeault writes that we can emulate Jesus' self-emptying love in our own lives by practicing letting go of the things, thoughts and feelings we cling to. This insight is more often associated with other religious and spiritual traditions.

The Tao Te Ching teaches that the usefulness of the clay vessel lies in its empty hollowness. Mahayana Buddhists use the spiritual discipline of meditation to cultivate an acceptance of emptiness, or sunyata, using the famous Heart Sutra: "Emptiness is form, form is emptiness." The lesson transcends religious divides; emptiness is not something to fear but to explore as a spiritual reality that leads to detachment from self-interest and greater compassion for the world. ...

Paulikas concludes with a call for self-examination and positive change, for hope and improvement:

... This is a powerful moment in human history in which we can examine, individually and collectively, the unnecessary decadence and cruelty of our contemporary society that we have accepted without sufficient scrutiny.

We don't yet need detailed plans for the future. For now, we can simply examine the emptiness of this disrupted life and take note of the ways in which we might strive to make it superior to what we had before. Sitting with these questions now will determine what we are willing to accept once this crisis is over. Having tasted a simpler life, perhaps we will shift our values and patterns. Having seen the importance of community, maybe we will invest more in the well-being of the collective and not just the individual. Having seen the suffering of others anew, we may find it impossible to ignore it in the future. ...

(cf Kenosis (2008-09-21), Cling to Nothing (2011-01-29), Seeking Negative Space (2016-04-21), Holding Space (2016-07-22), ...) - ^z - 2020-07-20