Emptiness, addiction and freedom

07/04/2011 § 2 Comments

“All human evil comes from a single cause, man’s inability to sit still in a room”. Blaise Pascal

If you have read this blog before you know I enjoy exploring hidden connections. Today I am thinking about emptiness and addiction.

I appreciated the comments on last week’s post about leadership. So when contemplating what to write about this week, my first thought was to continue with the same theme.

But when I sat down to write, I realised that I was all spent on leadership, for now at least. I didn’t have anything more to say on the subject that held any interest for me.  So I cast around for something else to write about and, unusually, nothing came to mind. Had my well of creativity run dry after a sum total of 11 blog posts? Oh no. Panic!

It is a scary thought to contemplate, emptiness. Maybe it feels like an intimation of death, of annihilation. We will do almost anything we can to avoid it. Alcohol, drugs, tv, sex, reading, excessive thinking, eating, shopping, Facebook, you name it, we obsessively fill our time with it to avoid going into that scary empty place.  Whole industries have been built to satisfy these addictions, all arising from our inability to sit still and be.

And yet if we can just bring ourselves to face it, that scary empty place can be a really cool place to be. It can provide deep insights and a feeling of profound peace. It is a place of healing and connectedness.

I think of emptiness as a narrow, rickety bridge over a deep chasm. If I can find the courage to cross the bridge, I will find all sorts of riches on the other side.  Yet I tremble at the prospect….

Having drafted this post last night, I woke early this morning in my brother’s flat in Covent Garden in central London, and decided to go for a walk. It was a gorgeous morning – warm, dry, clear, and the city just waking up.

I thought of heading to a park or down to the river but then I was reminded of emptiness. So I simply went outside and let my spirit guide me. I deliberately switched off my thinking mind and followed my feet. Have you ever tried this? I recommend it.

Via a circuitous route I ended up in Russell Square, which looked gorgeous. The plane trees stood tall, graceful and stark overhead, whilst at ground level life was bursting out in every shade of green.

Walking in the square and pondering emptiness, it occurred to me that it is the ego, desperate for control, that prevents us entering into emptiness, from dictating where we should walk to rather than following our feet.

I am fascinated with control, with the harm that is caused in society from the way one person controls another. What joy we could access if we could only release control!  Marx said that our domination and exploitation of the non-human world was a natural consequence of our domination and exploitation of each other. In the same way, I suppose, our domination and exploitation of each other is a natural consequence of our ego’s control over ourselves.  Every time we find the courage to enter into the struggle to let go, to stop controlling, to release ourselves from our addictions, to be empty, we strike a blow for freedom. Freedom at every level.

There, I am finished. Empty. Nothing more to say…


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