Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Saving Space Between the Ears

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Is that space between your ears? Hang on to it. It probably won’t be available for long.

From the gap between our front teeth to the outer reaches of the universe, we seem to feel the overwhelming need to put something in every hole. It’s the end of the world if we can’t whistle, so plug the gap. Who could possibly do a better job of decorating an empty universe than Mighty Man’s Floating Antique Emporium. It’s not space junk: it’s modern art.

But even on a more earthly plane, we simply can’t leave space alone. Every wall has a picture—or two or three. Every surface has a vase, book or coaster. Every closet has clothes enough for a lifetime.

If there is room, we build a high-rise or a highway. And if there isn’t enough space, well, no matter, that’s what fill is for, at least until the next hurricane or mudslide comes along. Cover the beaches with hotels or deck chairs. Run a cable car, or a ski lift, up a mountain. And just for exercise, cut down a forest, drain a pond, dig up a farmer’s field and plant a house with a plastic flamingo.

Somewhere out there are old mine shafts waiting with outstretched tunnels to receive the garbage from our megacities. By all means, fill the spaces, top up the holes, stamp out crevices wherever they may be found. Wide open spaces? Unfortunately, a few holdouts still remain. But still, we’ve done well. What isn’t frozen ten months out of the year we have managed to cut with lonely highways, cross with oil pipelines, stick with telephone poles or dot with giant windmills.

Make sure the shelves are fully stocked. Empty spaces make consumers nervous. Crush ourselves into that bus or subway car. There will another one coming shortly, but that sardine-size space cries out to be filled, and who can resist its plaintive call.

Every waking hour is full. Heaven forbid that we should stop for a few moments to contemplate. Smell the flowers? Consider the birds? No way. We can not allow that space in our day to remain unproductive. If time is money, space is where we spend it.

We shout, “I need my space!”, and then herd ourselves into big cities, Suvs and Disney World. Come on, tell the truth, you bought the SUV so that you could say “fill it up” and feel that sense of utter satisfaction of having filled up a very big space, even if it was at a very high price.

If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, hurrah, we’ve looked after two spaces with one swift blow. Of course, if the opposite is true, and a clean desk is the sign of a empty mind …?

So what about that most important space of all? What goes into the space between your ears? If you don’t shove something in there, some other “leave-no-space-unfilled” enthusiast will, and you might not like the results. Here’s an idea from a book which incidentally, needs to occupy more space in the mind than it does on the bookshelf or coffee table. Consider what Paul writes: “… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 NIV) Whatever fills the vital space of the mind will influence how well, or how poorly, all the other spaces of our lives will get filled up.