Tuesday, June 22, 2010
On a clear night many stars become visible. For centuries, the brighter stars have been grouped into 88 constellations. As children, we learn their names: the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, Scorpio, Leo, and so on. For children, identifying constellations is a fun game.
On my recent trip to Peru, I learned that the Incas had a category of constellations very different from the groups of stars we call constellations. They had "dark" constellations in which the space between the stars was emphasized. With the help of our guide I was able to see the dark Llama constellation next to the Southern Cross. The Incas also saw a fox and snake in the dark spaces between the stars.
The concept of dark constellations serves as a reminder of the importance of where we focus our attention. We can be so focused on the brightness of lights that we fail to see the fuller view. Physicists claim that "dark matter" makes up most of the universe. Yet, we can't "see" this mysterious kind of matter.
Dark constellations is a powerful metaphor for the spiritual life. While the "lighter" spiritual values of love, joy, and hope often capture our attention, we also need to pay attention to the "space" between these. An important need of the spiritual life is to create space within us-- a kind of emptiness that is open and receptive to the sacred dimension. For when we are empty there is the possibility of being filled.