The void

One of the 15 fundamental properties.

The void is the way that the intensity of every center depends on the existence of a still place — en empty center — somewhere in its field.

In the most profound centers which have perfect wholeness, there is at the heart a void which is like water, infinite in depth, surrounded by and contrasted with the clutter of the stuff and fabric all around it.

It connects with the infinite void, and also with the center of oneself.

We see it also in certain religious buildings — there, too, one finally comes to this center, to this central void. The altar in a church, the great empty space at the crossing of a church or mosque — it is the silence, at the heart.

This emptiness is needed, in some form, by every center, large or small. It is the quiet that draws the center’s energy to itself, gives it the basis of its strength.

The fact that the void does not exist so often now, in the buildings and objects we have in our environment, is the result of a general disturbance in our capacity to make wholeness, which is not a necessary functional property of office buildings. Most buildings today have too many small spaces in them, mixed up, scrambled — often because of a tendency to make many funky, small, “human” spaces. But there is a great lack of simple, silent, empty, large, calm space.

The need for the void arises in all centers. A cup or a bowl rests, as a living center, on the quiet of the space in the bowl itself, its stillness. A painting that is a mass of color rests on some quiet unbroken field of color, less differentiated, and concentrating the quiet to itself. In buildings, a large living room, not cramped — a large hall, not cramped — in ornaments the same. They cannot be all fuss; there must be a balance of calm and emptiness with the delirious detail. It is the way a large empty center brings life to a mass of smaller centers.

Can this be formulated as a principle of symmetry or differentiation? Is there a way that the presence of the void arises mathematically, as part of a stable unified structure, or is it merely a psychological requirement? It is the latter. A living structure can’t be all detail. The buzz finally diffuses itself, and destroys its own structure. The calm is needed to alleviate the buzz.

Functional examples. A large area of one material, surrounded by small amounts of another, is economical and efficient. It is much rarer to find that equal amounts of two materials will do the job.

Within the buzz of smaller functions, it is always essential to have some larger spaces where a larger, slower and more calm atmosphere pervades. The failure to do this, is one of the main mistakes of modern house and building plans. One of the main things I have learned about houses — no matter how small — is that there must be a contrast of the small spaces with at least one larger space, where entirely different kinds of social and emotional things can happen.

In nature

The void corresponds to the fact that differentiation of minor systems almost always occurs in relation to the “quiet” of some larger and more stable system. Thus smaller structures tend to appear around the edge of larger and more homogenous structures.

A hint of something that might one day be a general theory showing why the void will occur in complex systems to maintain their wholeness, appears in the most general models of fractal geometry.

#book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/5 Fifteen fundamental properties#

#book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/6 The fifteen properties in nature#

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