To be human is to be born with a kind of emptiness. We might fill that emptiness with a thing, an idea, an action, a goal, a drug…. The glass is not half full, nor half empty, rather it may be utterly void and incapable of being filled.
Our greatest pretenses are built up not to hide the evil and the ugly in us, but our emptiness. The hardest thing to hide is something that is not there. – Eric Hoffer
But somewhere in that void is our essence looking for us from within.
At an early age we start “filling the glass” with real and imagined things until we have defined ourselves. Eventually the glass becomes a facebook page or an about page that we believe is the real us. But is it? Do we want to be known or do we really just want to know ourselves? The current consensus is: it’s complicated.
There are many possible responses to discovering the emptiness we’re born with, but they generally fall into two categories: denying it and trying desperately to fill it, or sitting quietly and watching what develops. Addiction is a good example of the former, since it’s the high-speed, high-intensity version of socially acceptable consumption. Instead of living with ourselves – moments of confusion and all – we abdicate the responsibility, relying on both the subject of addiction and the trappings surrounding it to make up the sum of our lives. That’s part of why recovery can be so difficult; take all of that away, and there’s still the same emptiness we began with. We can go through cocaine detox, throw away our paraphernalia and let go of friends, but if we don’t make peace with the root of the problem it’s unlikely that we’ll stay clean. The same goes for other temporary solutions: they only work as long as we don’t look too closely, and nobody can keep their eyes averted forever.
So how do we make peace with our emptiness, and how do we give ourselves room to find and become an authentic person inside that space? Accepting it is one of the stepping stones of Buddhism, and various religions have called it a “God-shaped hole”, but other people find different ways to have their moment of peace. Some find it through sheer movement: Helen Thompson said that “in riding a horse, we borrow freedom”. That moment of floating on skis, wheels or feet, when the internal chatter quiets, and what we’re left with is our body and the world around.
No fear, no worry about what others think about us or what our purpose in life is – just the realization that being alone with our heartbeat can be enough. There we find the capital T in truth, where the same forces sling planets around suns, and pump blood through our hearts.