Tag Archive: Ma


What is Ma?

I have a hand. The hand is not me, but it is mine. I have a brain, this is not me, but is it (mostly) mine. I have thoughts, but again, these are not me. I have memories, they are mine, but they are not me.

There was a philosopher that used this argument for the existence of a soul, but the argument is flawed simply because I can just as easily say: I have a soul, but it is not me. I don’t think I have a soul, I think that idea is just wishful thinking that’s gotten tied up in dogma.

But I do know that whatever part of me I pick out, that part isn’t me. Even the sum of all those parts doesn’t quite cover it. There’s more to me than the sum of my parts. There’s more to you than the sum of your parts too. We have emergent properties that are more than we can really understand.

We have Ma. An emptiness that longs to be filled.

Ma is negative space. Ma is not something that is created by the elements themselves but rather it is the thing that takes place in the imagination of the human who experiences the elements. It’s the bit that’s not specifically defined and yet adds meaning and purpose to that which is defined.

Lao Tse explains it like this:Lao Tse

 Thirty spokes meet in the hub,
but the empty space between them
is the essence of the wheel.

Pots are formed from clay,
but the empty space between it
is the essence of the pot.

Walls with windows and doors form the house,
but the empty space within it
is the essence of the house.

[Lao Tse]

Perhaps in the same way, your body and mind form the human, but the empty space within you is what drives you. Most of all, it is the fear of that emptiness that is the essence of you. It is the fear of hollowness, the longing to be complete, that pushes people to create Gods and Souls. We are all defined by the emptiness within us and we constantly fight it.

Maybe when we know we are empty we can learn not to fight it but to use that space, in the same way we can make use of the space in a pot or in a house. We can make it ours. We can fill it with blackcurrent jelly. We can go live in it. There, we can find peace.

And, somehow, I’ve completely failed to turn a post about Ma into a ‘your mom’ joke… damn… time for a Socially Awkward Penguin:

Socially awkward pengiun

Ah... yeah... what I meant was...

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Finding yourself

Omni omni omni...

I used to hear about people doing all sorts of things in order to find themselves. People attending religious camps, climbing mountains, trekking across deserts, and sitting alone in the dark staring at the wall. One guy even spent a whole winter living in a tiny wooden shack surrounded by hungry polar bears. I mean, seriously? Find yourself? Really? Here’s a hint. Put up one hand in front of your face. You’ll find it’s attached to an arm (unless you’ve had a nasty accident or something, in which case you may need to apply the principle to a different limb). Follow that up to the shoulder and you’ll find that you’re actually right there! You’re attached! You’re not going anywhere. Hey you’ve found yourself, have a beer and get on with your day, right?

I mean, what do you really find if you sit on a mountain top by yourself for three months? I guess you find out that it can get damn cold at night; that toilet paper is actually pretty cool stuff; that body odour really isn’t that big of a deal; that it doesn’t really matter that you felt like an idiot when the girl you fancied mocked you in front of your friends. But you knew that already, right? I mean, toilet paper? How cool is that?

Man, toilet paper is so cool...

I’ve been up the mountain; I’ve walked the desert and I’ve spent my nights watching the ocean. Somehow I knew I was lost, but I didn’t find myself in any of those places. I tried other places too. Turns out I’m not at the bottom of a bottle of vodka, nor am I upside-down in a BMW in a ditch in Germany (at least, not right now, anyway).

What lampost, officer?

Nice parking...

Everywhere I went I just found my history was already there, just waiting for me. I realized that it’s not about finding yourself at all. It’s about cutting loose all the things that are not you. All that shit that builds up in your mind that just isn’t that important but makes each day harder. I used to be real bad for that. My history lived behind my eyes. Everything I saw was colored by the glow of the bridges I’d burned and disfigured by the shadows cast by the dead. But one day I realized: That history isn’t me. It’s shit that happened, sure. I was there. But it isn’t me.

Maybe some people feel they need to be alone in the mountains to cut thru all their history and their current situation to find what’s left. I don’t think you need the mountain. I think you can find yourself, right now, right here. You don’t need that romantic, meditation imagery. You don’t need those scented candles and voodoo worry dolls. You don’t need all the commercialized pine forest relaxation aids and panpipe moods.  You don’t even need to finish reading this post. You just make a choice to cut loose.

So I put my hand in front of my face. I followed my arm up to the shoulder. You know what? I’m right here. I’ve been here all along. In the end, I guess, I finally found myself, but there was a slight problem. Turns out that I didn’t like me very much. Guess you can’t win ‘em all, huh?