OSOM: August “Negative Space”

Kathleen Norris has helped me a great deal in my spiritual life.  While we are not always on the same page, we certainly speak the same language.  In one section of her book, The Cloister Walk, Norris explores what it means to be a person of faith – the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen  (Heb. 11:1).  Her writing and thoughts are beautiful.  I say that because what I happen to be focusing on here are actually two quotes that she uses…but I promise all the stuff around them is great too!

Norris first quotes Anglican bishop John V. Taylor:

Imagination and faith are the same thing, “giving substance to our hopes and reality to the unseen.”  The whole Bible endorses this, and if believers talked about faith in these terms they would be more readily understood.

And perhaps more influential to me, she cites a term by the sculptor Edward Robinson who speaks of certain encounters as having “an unaccountable remainder…2 plus 2 equals 5 experiences.”

I have experienced that.  The kind of relationship or event or prayer or song or community that is greater than the sum of its contents.  And it is this idea that led me to write Negative Space.  It can be a thing that is daunting, frightening, and even quite depressing.  Absence, vacancy, void.  Those are not terms we find great comfort in.

Yet, as a Christian, I profess to be a believer in this constant negative space that hems me in from behind and before.  To be in communion with the Spirit, the “breath” or “wind” of God.  This negative space is somehow much different.  It is a constant unaccountable remainder.  Although, I might argue, it can indeed be accounted for.

Sonically, my hope was to juxtapose an intimate, up front feel in the verses with a wide, spacious feel in the choruses.  I also tried out several new recording and production techniques.  I varied the mics and their positions on two different acoustic guitars, sang farther back from the mic to get more of the room sound, and manipulated some virtual percussion sounds to create the “bass” and “snare/clap” sounds.

Having walked through this months experience, I feel myself almost swimming through the atmosphere around me.  I almost the air having to part itself to allow my body to move.  Space in the form of physical distance, silence, my sin of leaving things undone, are no longer the absence of something.  They are the presence of life happening between the lines.

I’ll leave you with Deuteronomy 30:11-14,

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.


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