Monday, October 10, 2011

Form and Void

What gives rise to form? Can the unshaped be shaped? Is form always formed or does it oscillate with periods of void? If we come to know things only by contrast, and all things we see have form, how is it we can be so sure to differentiate between form and non-form. Perhaps we are mistaken and there is only form- the notion/condition of void as a type of form.
But it is imaginable that void can exist without form. Space devoid of planets, stars, and other objects is not an impossibility. Yet, this brings up the question: what makes an object an object? Asking this is important because we need to know what it is we are subtracting to create pure void. A simple answer is the stuff around us. But how is stuff measured? How could we count it and tell it apart from non-stuff? The long paradoxical answer is that what makes stuff itself is an arbitrary decision made by an observer. The stuff we perceive with our senses does not disclose the true identity of that stuff. What appears to be a multitude of shapes and forms is all reducible to varying frequencies of atomic pulsation. These atoms are made of ~99.99% space. The small area which has mass is the nucleus. This structure again also consists of ~99.9% space. And this pattern continues all the way down (well as far as we can look). Notice, the stuff is made up of space. So if stuff is space, then all is space. That then follows that all is void as space is void. But something about that does is not-just-quite-right. The solidarity we experience on the macro scale is the result of negatively charged electrons repealing each other, not stuff coming up against other stuff.
Where does this leave us? Stuff turns out to be space and space is the meaning of void, therefore all is void? Yet we can still perceive form as distinct from space? This is one of the riddles the universe offers us to ponder, leading us to realize our paradoxical nature. As a good mystery this leaves me still guessing. I think this sums it up well:
“O Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness; emptiness does not differ from form. That which is form is emptiness; that which is emptiness is form. The same is true of feelings, perceptions, formations, consciousness” -The Heart Sutra

Form and void as polar opposites quickly reveal themselves to be nothing but a false dichotomy- two sides of the same coin.