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Soulful Sundays: The Void

"Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster... for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you." -Nietzsche

The Void, or Abyss, has long been a topic of discussion for humankind. It encompasses all of the unknowable parts of existence because it came before existence. The Void can be terrifying. Or...the Void can stand as the ultimate contrast to the Real. It isn't an enemy at all, as we will see, and is actually the canvas on which we can paint beautiful experiences.

In the 1600s, Miyamoto Musashi, the legendary Japanese swordsman, scholar, and philosopher, wrote a book called The Book of Five Rings in which he succinctly summarized his martial strategy in a series of five different elements, or books. The last, and most succinct, he called The Void Book. It was just 9 paragraphs long, and essentially talks in circles about what he called the Void. He says that man cannot have knowledge of it because it is nothing. "When the student has studied diligently and broadly, then they can begin to approach understanding the Void as the Way and the Way as the Void." The Void Book ends with the important reassurance that "the Void is good, and contains no evil."

Perhaps Nietzsche read The Book of Five Rings, but I doubt it. Regardless, his words are just as enigmatic, but not quite as reassuring. He speaks to the nature of Yin/Yang pairings in that when you fight to stamp something out, you give that something force over you and become a monster yourself. The void is always filled. Also, he touches on the insignificance of human life, for when we look into the emptiness of existence, it unflinchingly stares back. This is existential crisis at its best, or worst. As Camus said, "the one true philosophical question is whether to commit suicide." In other words, you must decide if life is worth living. All else follows from answering that.

So, what can help us to decide that life is worth living? As cliche as it may sound, the answer I keep coming back to is Faith, which can take many forms. Faith in a greater power, faith in others, faith in goodness, faith in hard work, faith in yourself. Faith that your small contributions to the world will somehow make a difference. Even if it is just to one person. Be brave, be patient, be present. Have faith that what you do matters and remember that the Void contains no evil. The power of the Void is in us all.

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