on reconstellating space


(MoMA, New York, July 2016)

I learned some teenage lingo hiking last week with ninth-graders in the Sierras: dab, harambe, bruh/cuh/fam. (“What if your teachers call each other bruh?” we inquired.) The college equivalent was perhaps “space”: my resident advisor once declaimed we were always deploying “space” for some idea-or-other. Storytelling and affinity groups necessitated space, as did all sorts of personal exploration and intellectual inquiry and community building. Some people took up lots of space on campus; others nearly none at all. Space was creative, contested; shorthand simultaneously for an opening and an occupation, both empty and full.

Despite its contradictions and cliché, I’ve been considering space these past few weeks. Part of the reason (probably the main reason) the Kairos is folding in a few weeks is for considerations of “space”: many of us are moving onto different phases of life, work, and school, and want to preserve open space for persons and pursuits important to us. (To clarify, we had a time-cap from the start: the project was originally meant to last from Sept 2015-June 2016, and we’re ending Sept 2016.) Commitments such as writing for the Kairos require time-resources and energy, and quite sensibly ought to ebb-and-flow as is necessary. It’s been good discipline for my writing this year and a joy for me to write alongside friends, but it does also feel like a good moment to move on to other things.

Space right now for me also means empty space as I attempt to build a new life in a new city. San Francisco is far-away and thus a glamorous place to move to, but every now and then I wonder why I decided to move all the way across the country: where I know some friends but not a tonne, and many not all that well. The contrast was especially stark after a quick weekend in Boston for a very old friend’s wedding—getting to see family and friends—realizing I had so many lovely friends in the vicinity, more who I wanted to see that weekend but couldn’t. Wait, why did I turn down that offer in Boston? Was it really worth it for (what I thought) was a better job and more of an adventure?

Well, adventure isn’t quite the right way to put it. I think I mostly went with an intuition that it’d be chicken to stick with the safer option (East Coast city) when a riskier one could, potentially, turn out great(ly). So here I am, mostly happy with my choice so far, at least when I’m not overanalyzing and being angsty about it. There are so many possibilities for learning and growing and meeting new people. And my new colleagues are super cool.

I’m also becoming weirdly convinced that this space is good for me, right here right now. It’s a bit like filling an empty house or room: I’m really intentional at first about where things go, but after a while things pile up. Oh, that’s on my bookshelf? in my file cabinet? I’d forgotten. But now, while I’m extra-attentively shaping a life and a routine, attuned to all that’s around me, I’m not yet rutted into any sense of normalcy. I’m getting to build all the pieces from ground-up.

Here too (I hope) I can be extra-present to God who is here among us (a function of the same attention and whatnot). There’s a picture from the Genesis creation story that’s in my head that maybe captures what I mean. Before the start of creation, the world’s a dark, deep mass of water and nothingness, utterly empty, formless. Yet precisely amid and about the darkness is God’s being, “hovering over the waters.” Where there seems to be emptiness, an opening, there is in fact already an occupation. He’s around, if only I would recognize him, in space that is simultaneously empty and full.

This place of seeming-formlessness bodes a promise, too (as God-with-us always does, I think): because in the next line *light* appears, invented out of God’s imagination. “Let there be light,” and there was light. I’m not yet sure what light looks like here, but I’m excited to find out. For now, in any case, I’m feeling content enough to look out for God hovering over empty waters. Dear reader, may you too find him in surprising places, and may he light the way of your life.


  1. Inez Tan · · Reply

    This is a lovely continuation of something Shirley wrote back in 2013 – “To know the eternal God is hardly imaginable: we may press on to the knowledge of him for the rest of time and eternity and find that there is still more to know. And yet he is near. If we would but seek him we would find him and, indeed, know him: for his coming is as sure as the dawn. Thus the paradox is that eternity both lies within our grasp and yet is an ever-moving, forever desirable destination. Our hearts’ hunger is ever being filled and ever being deepened – to our great joy.”

    🙂 http://augustinecollective.org/eternity/


    1. Thanks for the share, Inez! 🙂


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