naos

Naos is the ancient Greek word referring to the inmost part of a temple: the "nave" of a church derives from it. The quiet emptiness of such a space is important to me in at least two ways.

It reminds me to keep my own mind quiet and empty, that oftentimes the most intriguing work is not necessarily happening where all the noise and effort are. How many times have I completed a drawing or a book to find that the remnants or the waste sheets under my work inspire me more than the finished piece? What was truly interesting was happening just outside the focus of my attention. It was where I was not.

On the other hand, I can’t just turn around and pay attention to my waste sheets as I work. It’s the old quantum bugaboo: observing something changes the outcome. Naos is not someplace I can inhabit; it must always be just outside my awareness.

Secondly, I have spent a lot of time considering where my ideas come from. So often I end up feeling that one moment there was nothing, the next there was something — which is both enough of an explanation and nowhere near it, depending on my frame of mind. Can I further unpack this apparently black box, learn some control over it? Like my waste sheets, I believe the operation of this mechanism does not fall fully within the range of my conscious awareness. Controlling it is a matter of balancing carefully between doing and not-doing. So I live my life as fully as possible, feeding the source by looking away from it, responding to what life brings me with an open, empty mind: never knowing what whisper will suddenly swell to the crescendo of momentary insight — then fade away, just as quickly. Naos to me is this state of mind.

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