Cluttering, Space, and Cap'n Kirk
Space might still be the final frontier, but not the kind of Space Captain Kirk goes on about. The Frontier is something full of unknowns, unpredictable happenings, boundless boundaries, Vulcans, Worm-holes and… space. In the States, the frontier started out as the Appalachian range, then the woods on the other side, then the Mississippi River, then the Rocky Mountains – where I have lived off and on for years. And it is spacious, still. And it has never really lost its Frontier status… probably because there are still far too many unknowns, unpredictable happenings, and boundless boundaries, (not to mention a few nerdy Vulcans dressed up at fan-boy conventions).
Drive across The Plains, or West Texas, or New Mexico and you will experience the weight of space. The sky is so far away and so hauntingly engrossing as you see from sunrise to sunset all the time, everywhere. It can be unnerving and it’s the lack of landscape, the space that makes those drives so hard to bear over time, not to mention how it feels like no progress is being made.Gerald May once wrote that as we lose our addictions we have the opportunity to become “friends with the spaciousness“– the space that has opened up, that is no longer cluttered with the addiction. He, also, gets it that most of us don’t want that friendship and so fill that space with clutter of a different type. As I have been reading through Parker Palmer’s “Knowing and Being Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey,” I am confronted again with space. He even has a chapter titled, “To Teach is to Create Space,” in which he also gets at this issue of clutter. He says:
“To create space is to remove the impediments to learning that we find around us, to set aside barriers behind which we hide so that truth cannot seek us out…so creating a learning space means resisting our own tendency to clutter up our consciousness and our classrooms.“
I have no actual “classrooms” but plenty of consciousness to clutter, and even as I can have little externally going on these days, I still manage to find barriers to hide behind, ways to dodge or dismiss any real contact with the truth that seeks me. I become unfriendly with spaciousness and the only one I hurt in the relationship is me. Ok, that’s not true. I likely hurt you (if you are one of the few I get to spend long hours with over pints and a meal, or meet for a trail-run, etc.) because in my dodging the enormous amounts of spaciousness before me, I can rob you of some space, too. Not to mention the sharing in the fun that comes from taking chances on the Frontiers, be they "final" or just for a moment.
Space is uncomfortable because it allows for questions I might not want to ask, or answer, it offers freedom to be creative in ways my clutter kept at bay, it provides an opportunity to be exposed for who I really am which may not jive with who I thought you wanted. Kirk was on to something when he referred to it as the Final Frontier, but he never had to leave the planet to find out just how frightening and adventurous it could be. He just had to be still long enough to enter the space right behind his eyes and chest.