The Fertile Void

The Fertile Void

This year I have returned to my study of the Tao. This sounds overly pompous now I have written it and over-romanticises a teetering tower of Tao books besides my bed that threatens to smoother me in a paper avalanche at 3am.

Why I am telling you this?

I am finding parenting truths running throughout the texts in ways that take my breath away.

Take for example the principles of Space and Void (K’ung). As many expat mothers find, we raise our children in a strange land in which we cannot find the perfect balance of work and childcare. Much to our horror, we find ourselves sat on a global Ikea sofa with little to do but scoop a mountain of plastic toys back into holding bays of drawers/boxes/cupboards. We have, in a certain sense, entered the womb ourselves. We have become suspended in space, in the fertile void, in what appears at first to be a space devoid of content. It is in fact, quite the contrary. In is a fertile place in which creative forms arise. Some of these forms are our children, sure… yet that is overly simplistic. What emerges from this Space is ……well…. everything. Form only ever arises from the formless void: that is the way this universe functions. When we raise our children we enter this void where there is nothing but possibility. We look at the space and only see what is not there: family, work, motherland, yet it is the space where the value lies as everything arises from the void, the Source of All That Is, Wu Chi. Only when we look and mourn for the form in this space do we create pain in our hearts. We place ourselves into conflictual thinking about what our lives “should” look like and what we “should” be doing. Forms such as these has disappeared and only we remain. Let us rest in the void. Let us grow just as our children grow as we live in the fertile womb, the fertile void together. It is like nothing we have ever know before, yet it is ours to explore.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 11
translated by Ursula K. Le Guin (1998)

Thirty spokes
meet in the hub.
Where the wheel isn’t
is where it’s useful.

Hollowed out,
clay makes a pot.
Where the pot’s not
is where it’s useful.

Cut doors and windows
to make a room.
Where the room isn’t,
there’s room for you.

So the profit in what is
is in the use of what isn’t.

 

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