The Purpose of Negative Space

Negative Space Helps Us See

The negativity around us can be suffocating. I know I feel it, even as an introvert. It’s the collective fatigue from all of the bad news and the uncertainty that has become part of our everyday. Even if we’re not directly impacted, by health or finances, we wait nervously for the storm to reach us. We’re simultaneous anxious and guilty when we see what others are enduring, be it the heroic health care workers, to those they care for.

In our more mundane existence, we take walks instead of going places. We’ve never seen so much of neighbors as we do now, each ambling about our houses, uncomfortable but still okay. For now.

Think about what the virus has taken away from us, we find that we can define what is important to us. Look at the chairs below. The chair, as we understand it, is in black. But crucial clues can be gathered when looking at what is not there. We can tell as much about the chair by what is not there than what is there.

COVID-19 forces our eyes to the negative space, but in doing that, it highlights what we value as a species. The stuff that’s important, without which we wouldn’t be humans.

Foremost, it took away our ability to be within six feet. That is a negative space. But what does it highlight? Our need to be close, to hug, to touch, to even talk to each other without fear. Being near people is, apparently, incredibly important. Its critically important to be around those during a sporting event, during a wedding, or during their death. We need to be close, so very badly.

It took away free commerce. I speak to people across the world as part of my job – COVID has taken away the ability to get a loaf of bread easily in some places, but most of the people I associate with ultimately find the bread. It’s obvious that food is important, but the negative space here is convenience and variety. We crave different foods, experiences, and commerce. I tried to buy some electronic goods the other day – it was more than a month to buy this particular cable. We now hunt different online stores for different products to get them quickly. Convenience, and the confidence that stuff will be there, is gone, and its importance.

In all of this negative space, we’ve filled it with variations., a testament to human ingenuity. We do Zoom church now, we play games with distant family members that we probably wouldn’t have had we not been forced into social distancing. I’ve enjoyed playing skribbl.io with almost every member of my family, coast-to-coast.

This, then, points to the positive space, the chair itself. We desperately need connection, and the Internet has gained the title of Most Valuable Innovation for this experience. I would say the most valuable player, but that title goes to our health care workers for certain.

But not just the health care workers. There are members of my family that are doing nursing or working for Amazon fresh gathering groceries, and IT workers that keep the Machine Digital working, day and night. We’ve enabled 4k streaming, online gaming, and Zoom calls all at the same time. Information Technology…take a bow.

The Arts are right behind it. Imagine all that tech with nothing to do across the world. I have LOVED Westword…I look forward to it.

The religious institutions, at least those who listened to the social distancing rules, should also take a bow. how about the drive-in church, or those like mine that did Zoom? We need faith in our lives more than anything/

In the end, COVID has hit humanity where it hurts- in our ability to be together. Yet, how wonderful it is to remind ourselves how important we are to each other, even strangers? Look at the negative space and find that it defines the positive for us in even greater clarity and understanding.

Don’t want to end this post without a big thank you. Happy Wisdom started over three years ago and with hundreds of people in the distribution, I appreciate all of you – thank you all for sticking with us!

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HappyWisdom.com – This is the big tent topic focusing on the good news of the world and more than that, how wisdom links up with happiness in a generative loop. On occasion, this includes faith-based guidance that I think will help the community, ranging from Alan Watts to C.S. Lewis. There’s a new page to connect on this topic here. I see this blog is kinda like John Krasinski’s Some Good News YouTube Channel. If you haven’t seen that, well, do it. There’s a new Facebook Page up for you if you want to share wisdom and see what we’re up to here.

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Till next time

-Joe