I always wanted to study art when I was growing up and just didn’t have the opportunity. In my 20’s I found an art teacher who offered painting classes in her basement every Wednesday night, and I went–every week for almost 5 years. During that time, I encountered the idea and the power of “white space”. What space is the negative spaces that allow us to see the positive spaces in a painting or photograph or even in a live view of things.
Long before I joined the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett, I heard others characterize this religious tradition as those who believe nothing or who will believe anything. I understand that it is difficult for those in creedal religions to understand how you can belong to a religion that requires no doctrine or dogma. Doctrine and dogma attempt to tell people what to do, how to be, what to think and what their lives mean. That can be very securing for many people, and I would not deny them that for a moment.
Unitarian Universalism is like the white space of religions. We create our space as a religion not by telling people what to believe, but by opening spaces for us to explore. When the directives and demands of doctrine are removed, what is left is white space. When people begin to explore who they are, why they exist, where they have come from and where they are going honestly, these open spaces allow them to see what is and what is not. As one of our beloved hymns based on the words of Rumi says:
Come, come whoever you are,
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving
Ours is no caravan of despair
Come, yet again come.
Though we’ve broken our vows a thousand times,
Come, yet again come.*
Today, it might be that you can let some of the demands of your life fall away a little bit. Notice the white space that is left. What does it invite you to explore? What does the empty, untouched, unpainted space of your life allow you to begin to see?
*A hymn in Singing the Living Tradition, adapted from Rumi, 1207-1273