Kim's Reviews > The Poetics of Space

The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard
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May 28, 14

bookshelves: imaginal-space

Magical and inspiring. Gave me the idea for the next class I want to teach. Teaching is all about creating space. Here's what I wrote in my blog www.gettingmessy.com about creating space in teaching:
Teaching for me is all about creating deep, fertile environments for learning. In fact, I have learned that being able to create rich space is way more important than any subject matter expertise that I may have. So if space is so important, why do we continue to focus on the specifics--the subject, the facts, the "thing," rather than the environment we are creating for any given project or event?

In his writings, the late philosopher Marshall McLuhan often distinguished between "figure" and "ground": "The figure and ground together constitute the totality of what is perceivable. However, it is the figure on which perception is focused. The figure is what appears structured, as the foreground and whereas ground appears as unstructured and background. The boundary between the two appears to belong to the figure, that is why the figure has a shape whereas the ground appears to be shapeless."

Since our left brains like to name and categorize things, they cause us to focus on the figure, and we typically dismiss the background as unimportant. In art, the ground is called "negative space," and experienced artists know that it's just as important as the object that is being drawn. In Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards writes: "...the negative spaces...require the same degree of attention and care that the positive forms require. Beginning students generally lavish all their attention on the objects, persons, or forms in their drawings, and then sort of 'fill in the background.' It may seem hard to believe at this moment, but if care and attention are lavished on the negative spaces, the forms will take care of themselves."

That is certainly true of teaching--the negative space or "ground" is much more important than the specifics of what is happening at any particular moment. As Eckhart Tolle wrote, the "Now" is not what is happening at the moment, but rather, the Now is the space in which whatever is happening, happens. That's the domain of teachers. What an amazing job we have.

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