empty spaces

14 exploring empty spaces

“Suppose all your objects in life were realised, that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you are looking forward to could be completely effected at this very instant: would this be a great joy and happiness to you?”*

‘What Joseph Conrad said about maps is also true of the brain: the most interesting places are the empty spaces for they are what will change.’**

When we move into empty spaces on the various maps of life, things are happening in the empty spaces of our brains.  Our journeys alter us.

What is more, and as a result, a great quest is one that changes and grows – if we are alive to it.  We come to appreciate we can never realise our objectives, because more and more proffer themselves.  When one quest finishes, another may already have begun – another empty space on the maps we’re scrutinising.

I arrived in Edinburgh in 2006 with a quest, but I had no idea back then that I would find myself moving into what I’m about to do.  These ten years have changed me and I do not see fewer but more empty spaces.

I  don’t think there’s anything unusual about this; I think it is simply what we call life.

(*John Stuart Mill, quoted in Chris Guillebeau’s The Happiness of Pursuit.  Mill’s own answer to this was a gloomy “No”. – what else would there be to live for?)
(**From Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.)


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