How does your Profession relate to Form and Emptiness?

My last article – Form, Patterns, Emptiness and Stuckness – on the spectrum from crystal to gas, from frozen form to emptiness led to some interesting conversations.

solid liquid gas

To a Psychotherapist (who is also a Hero of TTEM with over 500 posts) it was clear – and very much meat and potatoes of the day job – aka freeing people from being stuck with frozen patterns. Moving from solid towards gas. And some of those stucknesses have lasted for decades so need some strong juju to nudge folks out of those grooves. Stuck in ruts, a concept which surely derives from our Indo-Aryan roots – samskaras (Hindu) – being very much ruts in the mind that we repeatedly tread which become paths we then stick to/in.

However – hence the increasing purpose and relevance of TTEM – the poor therapist in the modern world is increasingly form-ed by the statist narrowing of therapeutic options (see Excellent Critique of UK Statist Regulation of Psychotherapy).

To an Architect the article meant something different. Architects experience of the day job is of going from gas to solid – from the blank sheet of paper to – literally – a solid object fixed in place. Albeit a solid object containing an “empty” space.  This will be done in a world of building inspectors et al – who put in place some over-arching requirements on that form (at a minimum “check it won’t fall down”).  Just as we want airlines regulated so they don’t skimp on maintenance we can benefit from national and international “standards” – the only trouble is that bureaucracy tends to spread like a cancer in the body of society – always on the increase in a way detrimental to the host.

It’s interesting to examine “blank” and “empty” in these contexts of “piece of paper” and “space in building”.

In our phenomenal, experiential realm we cannot have “empty emptiness” just as we can’t have “eternal solidity” – the winds and the rains erode any form.  To the western mind – beloved of the number 1 (and in a greedy world preferably as high a number as you can get) – emptiness is a fear-inducing lack of “stuff”.  To the eastern mind – which gave the west 0 – emptiness is a plenum void full of potentiality for everything and anything.

So that blank sheet of paper is not a blank sheet of paper – just as John Cage found that there can never be an absence of sound (in visiting an anechoic chamber before he created his signature piano non-piece of 4’33” of a pianist not playing). The blank sheet of paper goes hand in hand with the creative mind of the architect looking at it…

Mike's house design

Mike’s house design

Ragozzino Architects design - "3 different rooms transformed into a welcoming place with a sense of occasion"

Ragozzino Architects design – “3 different rooms transformed into a welcoming place with a sense of occasion”

My buddy and I would make very different things out of that blank sheet of paper – as above 🙂 – precisely as our internal patterns (and ability to riff around those) are completely different.  Equally the “empty” space in the building will have a certain tone or feel right from the beginning – even before it is ever used. Later – as anyone who has visited a sacred place or even a library knows – it will have a felt sense imbued by all the vibes of people and the mindset of where they were at when they were being in there.

Teaching should be in large part about education – e-ducare – “to lead out”.  However in our overly form-obsessed, bureaucratically-controlled world [see my talk on YouTube The World of Work has Changed Forever – Part 2 of 3 – Factoryisation Proceeds Apace] it should have whatever the Latin word for “to stuff into” is … 🙂 & :-(.  My elder daughter is doing her GCSEs and despite us all living in a world of “google in your pocket” she is doing the same that I did decades a go – learning a bunch of stuff to be forgotten asap the next day.  Now for sure informing children of some form, some patterns – such as maths, languages et al – is an important part of learning – but the two-way street (gas to form and form to gas) is in danger of getting lost.

Teaching has become almost entirely “installing form” – turning the pupils minds from potentiality into a bunch of ruts in the grass, some patterns, as the exam is all about whether one can regurgitate the patterns.  Can you see the subliminal shell game here?  Bureaucracy is all about fixed patterns – so they subliminally program everyone’s agenda around fixed patterns being “it” right from the start.  I don’t blame teachers – most I have met are actually trying to squeeze into the ever narrowing cracks in the system the old e-ducare – the enabling, inspiring process of helping individuals realise their own latent internal patterns and abilities.  Watering, being sunlight and fertiliser to the invisible seeds in the childs field of emptiness (read as vast potential).  Enabling the creative outpouring of form from emptiness which is what life is about … that baby is going to spout words, pictures, deeds that don’t exist yet.

In business I have related to form in many ways.  In my first job (software engineering) it was about creating form – programs – out of nothing.  But I was lucky – most folks’ jobs were about tinkering with existing forms (programs) rather than creating fresh ones.  In fund management when I took over I was about adding meta-form to get more replicable results – ie a sausage machine to ensure the production of more reliable sausages.  In risk management it was about adding form to know what was going on and to manage and control.  More recently in project turnround my problem has been how to pick up all the problems caused by having excess form, excess process.  Sadly that’s a tough sell – in a world of excess form the antidote is emptiness – but if the buyers only buy form then you can never really sell your core skillset which is, as an elder, having enough experience and wisdom to come up with the right answer in a certain time and place.  Formlessness.

How does your profession relate to form and emptiness, solid and gas?  Are you in the business of going from gas to solid (like an architect or programmer)?  Or solid to gas (like a therapist)?

Are you doing your day job of trying to liberate your own inner creativity (gas to solid) despite living in the increasingly Iron Cage like, solid impositions upon you by faceless committees far away which overly-constrain the forms you are “allowed” to give birth to into the world?