23 August 2012

The Silence Amplifies the Light

The other day in Ed Week class, Bentley and I were sitting at the top of the De Jong Concert Hall against the back wall where the ceiling casts shadows. I was telling him what I’d learned about nothingness:

When there’s no light, you have darkness, which is nothingness. When you have no sound, you have silence, which is nothingness. When you have no thing, you have space, which is nothingness. (I got these zen ideas from reading The Power of Now.)

Usually light is considered good (a something), yet silence is considered good too (a nothing). This seemed odd to me. Which is better, something or nothing? I concluded that you need a proper balance: When you’re trying to think and visualize—that is, when you’re trying to see—it’s nice to have silence: the silence amplifies the light. And when you’re trying to listen carefully, it’s nice to close your eyes: the darkness amplifies the sound. Somethingness (I like that word) competes with other somethingness, so we need nothingness to balance it out.

They say light is good and darkness is bad, but when you have pure light, you can’t see anything. It’s the shadows (the nothingness) that lets us perceive form. If there’s no shadow, all you’ll see is white, and that means seeing nothing.

Wow. Interesting. Pure something is nothing. And pure nothing is nothing. It’s only the combination of nothingness and somethingness that creates form.

As I was saying, I was telling this to Bentley, and I said, “The silence amplifies the light.” And he said, “Whoa, that’s deep.” I hadn’t realized I’d said something poetic, but after he pointed it out, I wrote it down, and now I’m handing it to you.

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— J