Some years ago I built an artsy coffee table with walnut, maple and a marble top. It also has a drawer. In the bottom of the drawer, covered with plexiglass, sits a piece of paper with fifteen written lines, the first of which (reading bottom to top, seeing the first line as you open the drawer) is “Fusions in the Void:”
I covered the plexiglass with sand, added some pebbles and made some small rakes out of copper with wooden handles, and a tiny hoe as well, so that, to uncover the words underneath one must rake the sand aside, a sort of zen garden tucked in a drawer. The contemplative exercise allows for discovery of the lines, hidden in a similar way to how things are hidden when we experience Void in our lives. This Void has other names: the Dark Night of the Soul, or a Valley Experience. It’s thought of as not only a spiritual but also psychological phase which includes depression and a significant sense of spiritual disconnection, but also can be a time of simplification and purification as well — depending on how you engage it.
In a move of pure hope, (because I was in such a Void when I made the table) I decided that surely in the Void some things were also fusing. It’s a sort of spiritual cold fusion, more based on a hope than a science.
Scientists talk of “pathological science” as a scientific pursuit of something which has been proven not to exist, or of “the science of things which are not so.” Cold Fusion, the idea that fusion energy could be produced at room temperature, is one example. People keep researching it because there’s some sort of hope that it could be, though scientists have proven it’s a thing “which is not so”. Richard Feynman talked about “cargo cult science” where people do things scientifically in the same way that South Pacific Islanders attempted to bring planes full of cargo back to their island by creating air strips complete with a hut with a home-made air traffic radio man inside it, complete with a headset, made of balsa wood, basically the cult creates all the trappings they’ve observed of an airport but it does not deliver airplanes. No cans of Spam arrive with obesity ensuing.
I suspect that hope must seem a pathological thing during the Void, and that even the trappings of spirituality seem like a cargo cult. We pray and journal and fast and pray some more, we read the Bible, and the harder we try the more God seems distant, as though on a journey or indisposed. His airplane never lands on our airstrip. What are we doing wrong? Where is the God who lit Elijah’s offering in a second? Where are the cans of spiritual and psychological Spam we wanted?
Hope, however, was David’s pathology all through the Psalms. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” (Ps. 42:11)
I like David’s use of the word “again”. It is as if to say “someday” as well as, maybe, now, as if to say “even though I don’t feel like it now, I will come back around to it eventually.” My friend Tim told me that in the newspaper office where he used to work, the standing joke was that any headline could gain added depth or at least humor by adding the word “again” to the end of it. “Mayor caught embezzling money– again” or “Eagles fall by a score of 52-0 to Panthers, again.” There’s power in that little word.
Part of my hope at the time I made my table was that in spite of the Dark Night or Void, when I had a deep and pervading sense of spiritual and psychological blindness, that there was some sort of Fusion going on, a cold fusion perhaps, when you’re neither hot nor cold, you’re just at this tepid room temperature, virtually numb, feeling little, groping for solutions. Living in fog as thick as pea soup (an image that has stuck with me from the children’s book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs). But in that fog, there’s a hope that fusion will happen in our lives, again.And perhaps even now that fusion is happening, though unseen.
Cold fusion may be an impossibility in the world of physics, but in the spirit/psych world of the Dark Night or Void, I am happy to pathologically believe that fusion is happening.
I invite you to follow a series of 14 more essays on Fusions in The Void. I’m sticking with the Void idea (and will not clutter future essays with the other terms) because it’s a place of creativity, of creation. I invite you to the paradigm shift that we are experiencing Void, not, perhaps in the sense of Eastern Mystics, but in this sense:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and VOID, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.” (Gen 1:1-2)
What happened during a time covered in darkness? Two verbs: creation and motion. The combination of these two verbs happening together is the idea I call fusion. (By the way, we need to pay attention to the fact that the motion here is not particularly directional! Think of it more like the motion happening when your stomach is growling: a churning and digesting motion.) The following essays (which, on my blog will bear titles beginning with “Fusions in the Void, Part __”) will explore what may be created in the Voids we experience from time to time. It is my hope that you will take this journey of pathological hope too, and that, in the end, you would find that this is not a cargo cult activity, but ultimately a productive one. Especially if you’re in a Void, I urge you to come back and read more of these Fusion essays … again.