Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Meditation on Inner Space and Outer Space

Our neighbor's yard.
The house across the street.
From the air, the coastline of Japan looked as though it had been devastated by a killer fungus. When I arrived for the first time, I couldn't understand what had happened to all of the greenery in the cities. Most of the homes were the color of concrete, the streets devoid of trees or grass. Every living thing had been consumed by the needs of its human inhabitants.
In much of Asia, cities are so packed that one is physically brushing up against other people every time one walks the street. If you live in a city this may not be surprising to you, but I came from farmland in Ohio where I could bike for an hour without seeing another human being.
While I lived in Japan, I became comfortable with the empty inner spaces. On their trains, I might be packed in so tightly with other human beings that my feet no longer touched the floor. But I was able to return to my empty room on the 21st floor. The bed would be rolled away into the closet leaving only an empty tatami mat floor and a simple scroll on the wall. Living space was small, but empty, and this was true of many of the homes that I visited.
Here in the US where land is open and empty, I am often taken aback by the clutter with which people will fill their space. Both the interiors and exteriors of homes will be packed with useless objects.
Why is there a need to fill the empty space?
As for myself, I find that I seek the empty spaces whether interior or exterior. I find a great peace in the emptiness.
A shopping area, typical of many large cities in Asia, can be viewed at this link:


  1. This is a great post, great to be encouraged to live without so much STUFF. When I've lived alone I've always reserved one room to be completely empty, except maybe a rug and art on the walls. I find empty rooms so soothing, even though they aren't comfortable.

    As for we Americans, I believe we feel so spiritually impoverished that we buy all the stuff so as to fill the emptiness. There's a great emptiness, an expectant emptiness, and then there's the emptiness of the bowl put away in the cupboard.

    You are so cool.

  2. I agree with you. I lived for years as a student with the less furniture and stuff I can have. People thought that I am a student and I am broke but I wanted an inner space to myself.

    I was lucky to live in the 6th floor, it felt like the 12th floor in other building apartment. I had a large window where I can enjoy the view of a large lake, open skies (the horizon), and the lights of the city appearing from a long distance at night. There was the least traffic surrounding the building as well. I actually enjoyed those days.

    Thanks for the thought.