Nothingness vs. Somethingness

First, I want to recognize for myself, regarding the title of my last post, that time is not to blame, we all have the same amount of time in a day and it boils down to priorities and how we choose to spend our time.  For now I would like to write again to capture some recent thoughts.

I attended a very interesting forum at work this week, the panel was three Ashoka Fellows: Molly Barker (founder of Girls on the Run), Kristen Hayden (founder of One World Now!) and Vishal Talrega (founder of Dream a Dream).  Even though religion was not discussed openly I thought they were making incredible statements about what it means to be human, what is the ultimate purpose of life, and what is good.  I was particularly fascinated by some of the words they used to describe their own experiences as their word choice resonated deeply with what I believe but which I have come to understand from a religious lens.  A few examples:

One theme that quickly emerged on the panel was the distinction between what they do and who they are, or action and being.  All three of them are incredibly successful entrepreneurs and all working with children in the realm of empowerment and all constantly traveling and talking about “what they do.”  However all three of them seemed to be bursting with the desire to express that what their vision was and the purpose of their work was not…running races, learning languages or educating street kids…but what kind of people they were creating, what the children they worked with were becoming.  Their language paralleled that of modern apostle Dallin Oaks in his speech “The Challenge to Become“.  Listening to both parties articulate a similar message I was struck by how much the Fellows struggled to articulate it and find the right words, all the while being lauded as insightful, innovative and revered for their wisdom while the speech of Dallin Oaks is build from ancient texts thousands of years old yet largely unread though beautifully poetic and even more poignant because of an answer to the question of ‘where does that drive or desire come from’.  Either way I share this sentiment, I am interested in what I become as a person not necessarily what I do or achieve.

Another phrase that dominated the conversation was the word “nothingness.”  All three panels expressed a point in their life in which the came to a fundamental crossroads or crux of experience in which “their mind was blown” and they finally saw clearly what they needed to do or had the courage to take big risks in their lives as social entrepreneurs.  Ms. Barker described her experience as entering into a state of ‘nothingness’, a washing away of all the frameworks and paradigms she had been taught, a pureness of thought and recognition of self.  Her word choice immediately made me think of King Benjamin’s speech in the Book of Mormon in which he challenges his listeners to be “awakened to a sense of your nothingness” which leads to humility and a recognition of God’s goodness and gifts and powers which results in “being filled with the love of God” and growth in “knowledge of that which is just and true.”  Ms. Barker went on to explain that she has found that space again and again and was even in that state of mind as she spoke.  I also confirm that I felt a difference in the room, the collective mood of all the participants, something was resonating or striking a chord with the participants.  Again as she was describing her feelings it was an immediate parallel to language I would be accustomed to hearing in an LDS church or meeting.  Mormons would credit such a moment to the Holy Spirit, the feeling of peace, the clarity of mind, the sudden strokes of ideas.  It reminded me of the following description of revelation by Joseph Smith,

“A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when youfeel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; . . . those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ.”  (TPJS 151)

I would argue that there must be a somethingness behind that nothingness which Ms. Barker describes.  Particularly in regards to how she describes it as coming outside of herself, not being created or manipulated as a feeling, it simply came to her.  It is those experiences that causes me to believe in that somethingness which leads to light and understanding and desire to become.  I find it even more powerful that that something is a someone.



#1 Greg Ward on 11.21.10 at 2:54 pm

Compliment – First and foremost, I truly enjoyed reading your post entitled, “Nothingness vs. Somethingness”. Your thoughts and comparisons opened my eyes to a whole new viewpoint, one of which I never considered in the past. While we were pleased in reading your blog, it really comes as no surprise to me because my wife and I both are open-minded people.

Fear – As parents we are deeply concerned about what the future holds for our children. Browse any teen fashion magazine and/or view all of today’s television programming aimed toward of kids. It’s a sad state of affairs to say the very least, a virtually unobtainable standard for most kids. In my humble opinion, Disney has become the new Hollywood over our lifetime and they better than anyone else set a whole new standard generating profits by inventing stars. Putting kids in television and movies is only the beginning of their giant cash machine. Let’s not forget about the live concerts and world wide merchandising to follow that exists around every corner in every isle of each and every store. These companies are interested in profit, but at what cost? When my wife and I review most of the TV programming, we witness a bunch of seemingly perfect individuals. Hair, make-up, clothing, even the homes portrayed in the shows are larger than life. So where does that leave our children? We feel that it only causes them to feel cheated and deprived.

Parent/ Troop Leaders – We are the proud parents of one marvelous daughter. We had hoped to more than one child but a higher power prevented that from happening. With that we’ve entertained the notion of either adopting or volunteering to help young people. Why? Because we have much to share. In 2003 we adopted an abandoned Girl Scout Brownie Troop. Now going on our eight year, we are still together and four are now pursuing their Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. (But that’s a whole other story). The long and the short of it is, “We are interested in helping to empower young people with confidence, self esteem and to teach them that they’re extraordinary just the way they are. When they’re with us we don’t care about hair, make-up or brand named clothing, only them as a person, as an individual person.

Why do they do it? – Some folks we know wonder how or even why we make the time to give so much of ourselves to other people. I guess you could say it’s a calling of sorts. One thing that also bears mentioning here is this; When I was very young, I was interested in hobbies. Two of our neighbors allowed me to spend countless hours in their own respective workshops teaching me about all of the various materials and how to use the machines safely. Always appreciative, I felt absolutely indebted to them 24 p/day. After several months had passed I made a similar statement to both men respectively, “I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to pay you back for all you’ve done.” Their response was virtually identical, “Son, when you grow up, you go out and help teach young people as well. If you do that, then we’re square”, Okay?” Of course I agreed to the arrangement wholeheartedly. (Interestingly, neither one of these men knew the other).

Nowadays we don’t expect anything in return for our volunteer efforts. We always provide environments where kids feel safe, feel good about themselves and hopefully, become success stories in their own futures. Just the same, we are supporters of anyone else who believes in these same kinds of philosophies. With that a particular name comes to mind right away, “Molly Barker”.

Our one and only daughter participated in Girl’s on the Run (G.O.T.R.). Beginning in my daughter’s 3rd grade year, she joined Girls on the Run. G.O.T.R. is an after school program which takes place a couple of days p/week in the elementary school gym for the most part. At the time, my wife and I were simply happy that our daughter was getting a little extra exercise and enjoying yet another self-esteem building program. As far as we’re concerned, young people can never get too much positive influence in our world full of make believe.

Several weeks later a local mom later gifted me with Molly Barker’s first book entitled, “Girls on Track”. Link: Admittedly I am a sensitive person to begin with, so it came as no surprise that many of the stories in Molly’s book brought me to tears. Furthermore, the people that know me well say, “If you liked the book Greg, you MUST go see Molly Barker live.” Later we discovered just how right they were.

My wife and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet Molly Barker for the first time in 2006. The meeting was brief with not much more that a handshake and picture pose during a 5K event. Nevertheless, we recognized a solid connection when looking into in Molly’s eyes that made us realize that we’re both on the very same page. In the days to follow I became deeply inspired to make a fully edited movie about my daughter’s Girls on the Run experience. Later we mailed a copy to Molly and she too was deeply moved. The next year I made a second movie about the program, but this time not just for my daughter’s collection, but all of the team’s families as well. The DVD was very well received. Anymore, in communicating with Molly and her Girls on the Run program, we always refer to our family as being, “3 of her biggest fans”.

“Girls on the Run is so much fun!” Just ask my daughter and she’ll tell you ALL about it!

#2 daviddstoker on 11.22.10 at 8:21 pm

Thanks for coming by Greg, happy to let you promote Molly Barker and Girls on the Run; great vision, mission and movement.

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