Chaos, the God of Emptiness

The ancient Greeks described the god­dess Chaos (χάος) as the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of pri­mor­dial empti­ness, the space that exist­ed before time. Chaos is not a god­dess, or not just a god­dess any­way. She is a place, a state of being, the first thing to ever exist. Chaos played a fun­da­men­tal, foun­da­tion­al role in the cre­ation of our entire uni­verse. Chaos teach­es us that empti­ness is a nec­es­sary state, a small­er part of the greater cosmos. 

We now con­sid­er chaos as a syn­onym for mad­ness, bed­lam, or dis­ar­ray. But I pre­fer the more ancient use of the word, from Greek kháos (χάος), mean­ing blank space, or the gap

I am offi­cial­ly an emp­ty nester. After 18 years, my house and my time are most­ly mine again. I was ful­ly pre­pared to feel bereft, yet, so far, I am only lov­ing the empti­ness. I can pee with the bath­room door open if I want. I can eat what­ev­er I want for lunch, when­ev­er I want. I don’t have to super­vise con­stant­ly (Did you reg­is­ter to vote? Have you checked the oil in your car? Did you return that call, that library book, that sweater that didn’t fit?). I don’t have to take the emo­tion­al tem­per­a­ture in the room every moment of every day (How’re you feel­ing today? Are the meds still work­ing? Do I need to check in with your ther­a­pist?)

I was an atten­tive, involved moth­er, but was always care­ful not to let “mom” become my entire iden­ti­ty. We live in a cul­ture where heli­copter mom is a badge of hon­or, so this may sound self­ish. But I have always main­tained that if I want­ed to raise a strong, inde­pen­dent daugh­ter, I had to mod­el that for her by being true to me. So I’m ful­ly pre­pared to give her the space she needs to endeav­or, fail, and fig­ure it out. And hap­pi­ly lean into the space she left behind.

My nest is emp­ty but my heart is full. 

Because empti­ness is not the same thing as noth­ing. The laws of the uni­verse dic­tate that some­thing can’t come from noth­ing. In math, an emp­ty set is a set with noth­ing inside it and a set is always some­thing. A new moon may not be vis­i­ble to my eye, but it exists still, just bid­ing its time to wax again. In breath­work, it’s not the inhale or exhale that mat­ters most, but the space between the two where the mag­ic lies. When I play my gui­tar, the moments of silence mat­ter just as much as the notes I play. These musi­cal paus­es aren’t devoid of life, but an oppor­tu­ni­ty to absorb the emo­tion­al vibra­tion of one note before hurtling into the next. And what of black holes, the very epit­o­me of empti­ness? They aren’t real­ly emp­ty at all, but filled with pho­tons, elec­trons, gravi­tons, and more, bits of life work­ing in tan­dem to hold space­time together.

What I’m say­ing is this. If chaos real­ly means emp­ty space, then bring on the chaos. I’m due a lit­tle space to breathe. 

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