Mental Negative Space

Wednesday, August 11th 2010

"Negative space" is a term used to describe an image mapped out by gaps in a a given piece of artwork.

You sometimes see it in logos.

Usa Network logo - negative space

Or in optical illusiony things like this.

Vase and faces!

But it's a useful metaphor, too ...

Mental Negative Space

Mysteries are like mental negative space.

What you know is the actual content - the black in the USA Network logo. The rest - the negative space - is the mystery. By travelling around what you know, you start to map out the contours of the unknown.

But you just have the knowledge - the black ink of the logo - and a sense that the ink ends at certain points - the contours of the logo. That sense of, well, the USA Network logo. (ahem)

But in this Cosmic metaphor you never see the entire logo.

In religion they categorise the sense of mental negative space, and the inability to actually see what it is, as "mystical".

I don't think mental negative space is something people like the feeling of. They like to label it, fill it in, say they can see the Grand Cosmic Logo. The Big Symbol.

Look! There it is! See!

Then the problem goes away. You have a logo in your head. The mental negative space is replaced with a form you invent.

But it's an invention. It's an optical illusion for the mind.

But it's a convenient optical illusion. Without it, the mental negative space can weigh heavily. Absurdity reigns. Life can seem meaningless. To the over analytical mind, this can lead to a metaphysical dilemma that is experienced as pain.

To avoid that, the Big Symbol is invoked.

It can take form in religious dogma, political fundamentalism, alien-conspiracy cults, scientific imperialism, etc, etc.

But pick away and you'll find the gaping abyss of fear of mental negative space.