Monday, April 11, 2011

Living in the Negative Space

I apologize for breaking my usual semi-daily posting routine; my power cord decided it was through with everything and gave up.  No one knew the day nor the hour.  I think Jesus said something about that in The Message.

This past summer, the NCAA's Big Ten Conference and Big XII Conference both underwent membership changes.  Now, the Big Ten has twelve members and the Big XII has ten. The Big Ten, of course, has had eleven member schools since 1990 when Penn State joined, and has now gained one of the schools lost from Big XII -- Nebraska.

While discussing all of this, my roommate showed me the Big Ten's logo:

Now look at it again, specifically between the G and the E.  If you don't see it yet, unfocus your eyes like one of those stupid Magic Eye images that I could never see.

Do you see the 11 yet?  Mind blown.

Artistically, that's called "negative space."  Some more familiar uses of negative space include optical illusions, such as:

I've noticed a different kind of "negative space" recently.  Whenever someone lives by a negative definition, i.e. "I'm not ______."  I'm not an alcoholic.  I'm not like my father.  I'm not like those crazy Christians who beat people over the head with a Bible and tell them nothing but they're going to hell.

The Lord showed  me something about living by a negative definition: you'll always try to define your life by what you don't want to be, meaning the thing you hate will always be at the forefront.  The less you want to be like your mother, the more you'll have to focus on who or what your mother is, does, or means, all in an effort to avoid possibly being like her.

Life by negative definition is always rooted in insecurity.  I'm most concerned with not being like that guy because I'm not sure who I am.  The worst thing you can do to a person living in negative space is compare them to the thing they hate.  They will fight you and argue about why you're wrong.  In their mind, being perceived as like the thing they hate is as bad as actually being like the thing they hate.

If you're secure in yourself and in who you are, others' perceptions don't matter to you.  You have a positive definition of yourself instead of a negative definition.

Case in point: two weeks ago, a white guy dressed like a thug comes into the gas station where our Domino's is located.  He gets into an argument with a black lady.  He yells, "I'm as gangsta as any black guy in here."  He then walks outside, where he gets knocked out in one punch.  An hour later, his mom comes in the store trying to figure out what happened.  She gives her reasoning: "The problem is all these black people riding around blaring their music."  She defends her son and dislikes the fact that we're laughing at the fistful of irony he just got.

My perception of the situation is this: parents are racist; son hates parents' racism and seeks to get as far away from that as possible; son tries to adopt black culture and shed any potential whiteness he may have; parents object, but still love their son.

Bottom line: anywhere you try to live your life according to "I'll never ______" or "I'll never be like ______," there is that negative space.  Any time someone hints that you might be on the verge of the periphery of the margin of that negative space, you'll flip out and go defensive.  And, even though you try to escape it, that thing will always be at the forefront of your attention.  Find out who you are outside of that thing, and live life according to who you are, not who you aren't.

How has this happened to you?  What are the negative spaces you live in?

1 comment:

  1. Holy cow! I learned this concept years ago when I was but a wee content editor intern. My boss told me to never use negating words even if it's positive. I have since tried to apply that to my own life. It was cool to read it here.