The Joy & Pressure of Nothing

Photo by icd 2013(c)
Photo by icd 2013(c)

The empty space is an invitation. I’m asked to fill it in with gratitude. I’m solicited to maintain a certain quality within this space. I’m reminded by a million media streams, social feeds, and academic discourses to shape  (and un-shape) thoughts there. Somehow my academic, professional, musical, and introspective lives are running parallel. I’m floating in ambiguous space. I’m bored. I’m willing to let go of it all. There’s a joy in the awareness of promising disintegration, potential detachment. While the marching drum beats out the call to produce, to practice, to gain mastery, to let go further, to dive in deeper, to innovate, to capitalize and optimize, I step out of line. With all of the anticipation of possibility, the prescribed “open mindedness”, the assumed freedom, I find most endeavors to be flatter, less brilliant, and far less significant than ever before.

The joy rides along on my shoulder as I join a friend for tea. We immediately set out on knitting a discussion of academic conferences, coursework, next steps, and a limitless confrontation with reading, reading reading… The joy reminds me that it doesn’t matter, that I am not shaped in comparison to others’ life choices, that I am running along my own temporal-lineal path.  “It’s OK to float here if that’s how you feel” the joy says. The pace of my friend is swift. Her goals impassioned and dynamic. I like that about my friend. I suppose at times we’ve shared that twinkle but today, I’m just an observer.

My almost researcher based stance in this brief social encounter allows me to notice the pressure of our current state. We’ve made it past our first year of doctoral studies. We’re working in jobs which will likely be intermediate in our careers. Our areas of research and fields of work lying in wait in some uncongealed Pangea. We stare into the forms awaiting a vision, keeping ourselves busy, so it looks like we’re “doing something” in the meantime. The pressure to fill the nothing with a determined something.

I ask if there are any spaces of research we haven’t over saturated yet. I ask if she thinks all the spaces have been muddied up with some pre-supposed doctrines on how to move through.  My friend reminds me that we are not confined by past knowledge. She tells me there will always be a chance for us to have something of our own in the instancy of each context lived and the numerous variants impacting every moment. The joy returns in the shape of a meager smile behind my chewed up straw.

I think I’ve simply become a researcher of my own life. There aren’t many rules about how I should approach this work. And I have the opportunity to situate myself in a deep observation of social interactions, discourses, and patterns running through the different spaces through/by/which I’ve constituted my identity (Pals, 2015). In some ways, I’m in the midst of an inquiry around the joy and pressure of nothing, at a moment when I am mostly directionless…more separated from spiritual, professional, and scholarly dogma than ever before. I am taking up a creative yet rational deconstruction of self, time, and context for as much as I am able without fear.  And with growing joy and somewhat soft pressure, I’m curious about the potential for shifting my view of movement and experience.

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