Emptiness

“Emptiness is a very common complaint in our days,, not the purposeful emptiness of the virginal heart and mind but a void, meaningless, unhappy condition. Strangely enough, those who complain the loudest of the emptiness of their lives are usually people whose lives are overcrowded, filled with trivial details, plans, desires, ambitions, unsatisfied cravings for passing pleasures, doubts, anxieties and fears; and these sometimes further overlaid with exhausting pleasures which are an attempt, and always a futile attempt, to forget how pointless such people’s lives are. Those who complain in these circumstances of the emptiness of their lives are usually afraid to allow space or silence or pause in their lives. They dread space, for they want material things crowded together, so that there will always be something to lean on for support. They dread silence, because they do not want to hear their own pulses beating out the seconds of their life, and to know that each beat is another knock on the door of death. Death seems to them to be only the final void, the darkest, loneliest emptiness.


“They have no sense of being related to any abiding beauty, to any indestructible life: they are afraid to be alone with their unrelated hearts. It is not only trivialities which destroy this virgin-mindedness; very often, serious people with a conscious purpose in life destroy it by being too set on this purpose. The core of emptiness is not filled by trifles but by a hard block, tightly wedged in. They have a plan…and this plan, this enthusiasm, has become so important in their minds that there is neither room to receive God nor silence to hear His voice, even though He comes as light and little as a Communion wafer and speaks as soft as a zephyr of wind tapping on the window with a flower.


“At the beginning it will be necessary for each individual to discard deliberately all the trifling unnecessary things in his life, all the hard blocks and congestions; not necessarily to discard all his interests forever, but at least once to stop still, and having prayed for courage, to visualize himself without all the extras, escapes, and interests other than Love in his life: to see ourselves as if we had just come from God’s hand and had gathered nothing to ourselves yet, to discover just what shape is the virginal emptiness of our own being, and of what material we are made.


“We need to be reminded that every second of our survival does really mean that we are new from God’s fingers, so that it requires no more than the miracle which we never notice to restore to us our virgin-heart at any moment we like to choose. Our own effort will consist in sifting and sorting out everything that is not essential and that fills up space and silence in us and in discovering what sort of shape this emptiness in us is. From this we shall learn what sort of purpose God has for us.” (Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God, ch. 1)

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