ISSUES OF FAITH: Filling the void to feel less empty

Words have a way of explaining themselves

SOMETIMES WORDS HAVE a way of explaining themselves that I find enlightening.

One such word is “avoid.”

Now we all know that to avoid something means to stay away from it, but if you break down the word you get a-void.

This suggests that the action of staying away from something actually creates a void, an empty place.

This avoidance doesn’t happen randomly; we avoid things that make us squirm.

We avoid technology because it makes us feel stupid.

We avoid people because they make us feel bad about ourselves.

We even avoid parts of ourselves because they cause us shame.

Why is this a problem?

Nature hates a vacuum and always tries to fill it.

Thus, we unconsciously try to fill these voids with things that make us feel less empty.

We eat and drink too much.

Or we spend too much time in front of a TV or computer screen.

Or we give ourselves a momentary distraction with a new relationship or outfit or boat.

It helps to remember that every void we create by a-voiding something is centered around an important, vital and life-affirming part of us that is trying to make life worth living.

They merit our mindful attention.

To stop a-voiding, we must learn to become more patient and present to life — even when it’s difficult.

We created the voids when we left.

It is only our unconditional return and embrace that can truly fill it.

The Persian poet Rumi once described this process as being willing to let every guest into “The Guest House.”

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

They may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

That’s not to say that we must invite every unpleasantness to stay with us permanently.

That’s why it is a guest house.

But we should at least invite them in for tea and get to know them before sending them out the door.


Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Kate Lore is a minister at the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Port Townsend. Her email is [email protected].

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