Sometimes when things stop being the way they were, empty space opens up for things to be what they are becoming.
A recent fascinating documentary explored the life of Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist and cosmologist. At an early age he was diagnosed with ALS, a degenerative nerve disease that completely disables and is usually fatal. He was told that he would live only 2 or three more years.
But, now, at 72, he is one of the greatest physicists of all time. As his body deteriorated through the years, Mr. Hawking explored the origins of the universe and mathematically proved the "Big Bang" theory of creation. He studied "black holes" and has contributed to quantum leaps in scientific insight into the expanding cathedral of the universe.
Mr Hawking's ability to speak became so bad that he had to have someone interpret for him. Then, in 1985, he nearly died with pneumonia but when he recovered from a coma, he lost all ability to speak. Because he could only move a muscle in his cheek, he was outfitted with a computer device that enabled him to move a curser on a computer and construct words at the rate of 15 words per minute.
He said that, as a result of being unable to speak, he spent more and more time in his mind, exploring the expansive questions of the universe and how it works. Many of his theories have developed in that empty space where once his voice existed. After the loss of his voice, he finished his most popular work, A Brief History of Time, that has sold over 10 million copies.
Most of us will never be famous and contribute to the world's self-knowledge the way Mr. Hawking does. But, I know that empty space can be a nest for unthought insights to be birthed. Our anxiety about empty spaces often prevent our making new discoveries. But, if we can moderate our fear and wander around in that space, we may discover insights that had eluded us and courage to try something new that we never had time to do when all the space was filled.