ToV 11 – Taoists and Topologists

Click on image for interactive Wolfram Demonstration

There’s an old math joke says: a topologist can’t tell the difference between a coffee cup and a doughnut (pausing while you look up topology and doughnuts, or sigh and wonder what is wrong with me). To a Taoist however, the coffee cup has a useful sort of emptiness the doughnut does not, and that’s what this stanza is getting at:

We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.

It’s a hard concept (and a big Taoist one) to get your head around: the use of emptiness, the value of nothing. In a material culture with a high weighting on productivity it seems counter-intuitive, and often these Taoist ideas seems like lazy inaction and uselessness. Not so! It’s a ripe sort of emptiness, full of potential. If that pot was a big lump of clay it wouldn’t be useful for much (except maybe hucking at someone) but formed in a way to create some emptiness, then it becomes really useful.

People are like that too, we are material beings: all atoms and bonds and life circulating around; but it is the emptiness, the space we create within ourselves, what we allow to fill that space, that makes us really something. It is what makes us able to really DO something, it makes us fully who we are.

We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.

It’s the interaction of both that really makes us who we are. A piece I wrote ages ago: The Space Between the Notes, looks at Math and God and Spirit and the place where they all come together. It isn’t one or the other, it’s where they come together that the extraordinary happens.

8 thoughts on “ToV 11 – Taoists and Topologists

  1. Nice article! Been a while since I read up on Taoism, I think there was some fable about some guy who dreamed about a butterfly but then realized that maybe the butterfly dreamed about him…hhhm donuts :D


    1. Thanks! And fair enough, I’ve gotten a little lazy over the summer, just happy to get some writing up. But a good reminder, pictures are always fun! I shall add a pic to this one, just for you :)


    2. I like pics. _Sohbet_

      critique post
      a pic just for
      bran dayold discount
      worth its weight
      in sealed peanut butter
      tuesday afternoon
      one small


  2. Just back from vacation. One day while walking Lakeshore Blvd in Burlington we came by the Art Gallery. Outside was a sculpture (sorry I don’t know how to include a pic of it here,jyanti). My partner calls it one of those Gestalt sculptures, meaning if you look at it with one perspective you see something and then if you look at it from another perspective it is an entirely different thing. Anyways, if you look at the aforementioned sculpture the series of metal shapes resemble a row of ornate vases. If you look at the spaces in between the vases you see the silhouettes of naked women facing one another.

    I’ve always preferred looking at what the art world refers to as negative space. For me that is where the magic happens. There is so much potential in emptiness. You just have to let go of any preconceived notions and let whatever happens do it’s thing. It’s what happens in the creative process for me. I have to have space for the juices to flow…and then look out!

    Going back to topology, yeah, cups or any vessels are pretty cool and the spaces within them hold potential, but donuts are yummy but without the holes we wouldn’t have timbits.


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