In many ways, the pandemic feels like a space between things. A confusing and ambiguous gap. A pause in time. It’s a time defined by the absence of normal. We find ourselves between the time before last March and an unknown time in the future when we view life as returning to normal. We tend to anchor to the before and after when we talk.
We might describe the time before with nostalgia and longing. “Remember when…” we say.
We might describe the time ahead as moving on or returning to the familiar. “When this is all over, I can’t wait to…“ we say.
But what about now?
In Japanese, the symbol of ”Ma” combines the characters of ”door” and “sun” and is known as the space between. But it does not refer to empty space. Rather, it describes essential space.
In speech, Ma is the purposeful pauses that allow particular words to stand out. In music, it is the silence between the notes that give a song its melody. In ceramics, it is the space inside a clay pot. In architecture, it is the space within walls and doors and windows. In time, it is the quiet period between activities.
Ma helps us understand the importance of creating and fully experiencing these spaces. When we reflect on its meaning, we can imagine a door that is wide open to the sun’s light, enabling freedom and growth.