Saturday, September 02, 2006

Negative Space

In "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" (read many years ago, don't remember the author and may be slightly off on the title) the author wrote that when drawing a tree you could draw the leaves or that you could draw the spaces between the leaves. For the most part, the resulting picture would be similar, but the mindset needed to work with negative space is quite different.

Tracking, in a way, is all about negative space. The tracker isn't looking at the foot, he is looking at the empty space where the foot used to be... with skill he can work from this empty space and reconstruct details about the animal far removed from the foot he has never seen. Reconstructing a tree from the space between the leaves.

One of the things that I've noticed with fighting, particularly with in-fighting, is that most people fight against limbs and bodies and a few very effective people work the spaces where there are no limbs and bodies. It's hard to control space if you don't think about and see space- fighting at close range is very much about controlling space, working and moving in the space between the leaves.

A friend asked an amazing question, recently: What is faith? Why do so many successful people evince so much of it?... I realized that faith was one of the things that is invisible to me except as negative space.

Faith in religion is a story we tell ourselves to lessen the fear of the darkness. I can't see it as a real thing. Faith in yourself is a transient assessment against an imagined level of problem. If your capabilities change or the problem you expected was a big bill and the one you got was a tsunami... do the math. Faith that everything will turn out alright in the end... I can't see any of these as real things.

But I can see the tracks. What I think faith is is the ability to let go. To not need to know the outcome before acting. People are risk adverse- they don't like losing, they don't like taking chances if there's a chance of loss. They like comfort and security.

One of the reasons most people can't do (or even really understand) emergency services jobs is this level of faith- how much information would you need before gambling your life on a decision? For us, it seems completely logical: "As much as I can in the time I have, then roll." For civilians (and some administrators), they always seem to want more even on minor decisions.

I've seen officers make the sign of the cross before entry and heard others say, "It's a good day to die." I've looked the team over and thought, "Yeah, with these guys, we can handle this. We're good to go." Leaders have said (often), "You've trained hard for this. You'll be fine." Faith in religion, in self, in team mates, in training... all just words to me.

What I do see is the ability to act in uncertainity no matter how they describe the source of courage. The ability to leap in the space between the branches.


Mac said...

Ahh, the spaces - such power flows between each static moment, each event. They are the timeless time within which simple or great things can be accomplished with very little energy output. All discovery, all effect exist in these spaces. And custody of wild men can be easily be accomplished - done before they know their had. No fight - no blame. How much I have learned from just being in the spaces.

drew said...

Hey that's pretty cool