Monday, November 17, 2014

Reflections on the Tao - Balance

Shape clay into a vessel;

It is the space within that
 makes it useful.

Cut doors and windows for a room;

It is the holes which make it useful.

Therefore benefit comes from
 what is there;

Usefulness from what is not there.

― Lao Tzu

   What I have always found fascinating about Taoism is this essential element of dynamic balance that pervades the teachings of Lao Tzu. 

    This quote demonstrates the intrinsic balance that is achieved by recognizing  the interplay between what is there and what is not...the "negative" and the "positive" which are both important and complimentary.

   If you have studied the basic design principles you know how "balance" is discussed...symmetrical, asymmetrical, visual "weight, empty and full space.  These are all part of the concept of balance in the visual arts but somehow, I feel this quote opens up a whole different way of regarding balance.  We normally think of a photograph as a representation of what is there but it is in what is not there that the real contemplation lies.

   I could go on and on about the photograph above.  It is, quite simply, a photograph of two cairns near my house.  But if we look into what is not there...well, what would you see?  What "usefulness" can you find there?  My first reaction is the idea of gravity as "glue", holding things in place by the prevailing force of the universe. If you have any thoughts along these lines, let me know.  I would be very interested to get your reactions.


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