Friday, December 4, 2015

The Importance of Contrast

I’m reading John O’Donoghue’s book on Celtic wisdom, Anam Cara. Yesterday I was struck by this line: “A friend of mine who loves lace often says that it is the holes in the lace that render it beautiful.”
In the photo to the left, the white lace pattern is clear against the black background, but when it crosses the other white fabric the pattern is hard to see.
My dear Arthur, a musician, often said it is the ‘holes’ in music—the silence between the notes—that make it beautiful.
Artists talk about ‘negative space,’ the importance of defining an object by juxtaposing it with not-that-object.
One of the first lessons a photographer learns is the importance of contrast—light and dark combine to make a great photograph because it is contrast that creates the illusion of dimension.
I think this principle of contrast is applicable to matters of the heart also. I thought I knew what compassion was before Arthur died, but my experience of grief has taught me how shallow that understanding was.
I have had a very blessed life, with few major difficulties or misfortunes. I had a long-term relationship with a man I loved and who loved me. Of course we had conflicts, but we felt we were soul-mates. My experience of life was shifted to the ‘positive’ side.
But then Arthur died, and I have been plunged into darkness. I know what it means to have a broken heart, to feel anguish, to ache with loneliness. And out of this brokenness I have discovered something wondrous: a deeper understanding of love and compassion.

Through the contrast given by loss I have a fuller appreciation of the love I had with Arthur. The pain caused by this gaping hole in my heart has opened my heart to other’s sorrows in a whole new way. I see now that my earlier compassion was mostly intellectual; now it’s become experiential. 
I am grateful for this change.

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