Horror vacui: The fear of empty space


just nibbling on a freshly fried cheese empanada on the streets of Mancora, Peru while waiting to board our 20-hour non-stop lady-screaming-bingo-at-ten-AM-it-sounds-like-she-is-on-DoratheExporer bus ride to Lima.


our classroom in Punta Sal, Peru.


primer clase de cocina de mi mama peruana: causa y arroz con leche.


animal love in the erotic room at el Museo Larco


these two looked so content.


professor taking a dip before class


the shiny beach


bye bye sunshine.


Lima with flowers

I visited a museum today called “El Museo Larco” in Pueblo Libre, Lima, Peru. It was full of impressive ceramics from early Peruvian cultures between 8000 B.C. and the Spanish conquest.  The Nazca culture (1 AD -800 AD) is known for the monsters and frightening designs on their vessels that they put there to scare bad spirits away from the empty space they were creating in the vessels. They were afraid of empty space. I am afraid of it too. Of a place where nothing exists except for your awareness of nothing existing. Of a time where nothing happens except for time passes and you know its passing. Of a feeling that you are empty of power and you have little control over your thoughts and your actions.

Or maybe you what is worse about empty space is you think it is empty but you also have the faintest suspicion that it could be full of something unknown and scary but then you go back to thinking its empty because its a much safer thought. Like the large empty space beneath your bed or the small empty corner in your closet.

But we all create empty space. The Nazca took responsibility for the empty space they created and protected it with their artwork. Are you responsible for the empty spaces you create? For the buffer zone that you surround yourself with or the places or pieces of you that you don’t let anyone know about or touch or fill. How do you make sure that they are not filled with bad spirits? Is the filter or scare-tactic that you create impermeable to good spirits too? My intention for these questions is not to pry into your empty space. However, I am trying to locate and take responsibility for my own.

Something more concrete: examples of empty space.

The awkward phase between an ending and a new beginning where nothing is planned so you think about planning something but you also think about going back to the thing that just ended and for a moment, or a while, you aren’t really anywhere but in between two places in an empty space.

Small talk and cell phones. Talking about the weather instead of the things that are actually whirling through your mind. Diverting attention to your cell phone instead of interacting with the people sitting at the table beside you. Bleh er ger bler. We do it so often, “this is awkward so let me just look at my phone and pretend to be doing something important and less awkward.” Or today when I attempted to Skype with my parents. Before the Internet sadly failed my Dad asked me “Tori! How are you?” in his exited daddy way and I said “I am good. The weather was nice today, sunny and hot.” Really Tori? Was that really Tori-news priority one. These habits are comfortable, they allow us to retreat back into ourselves instead of sharing ourselves with other people and making connections. They are empty.

The stomach (yes folks, I am back to talking about food). It can be an empty space. But it can also been really uncomfortably full. Or it call be full but it still feels empty. Or it can be upset because you let the bad stuff in (for example: questionable street food, excessive amounts of ceviche, overwhelming quantities of sugar, etc). Today I woke up without an appetite. I ate some bread and fruit for breakfast and I felt the same. I went running and then ate lunch like I was hungry, because I knew I should be hungry, but I wasn’t really hungry. Dinner passed similarly. I am coming to realize that the feeling of satisfaction that I get in my gut-region at times, the yum-boppety-good full, has little to do with the quantity or quality of the food that I am eating and everything to do with the atmosphere and people and spirits that are involved in the experience. Hunger is the desire to fill that empty space, to avoid horror vacui (albeit, in extreme cases, to avoid starvation). Cooking and eating with people who I love feeds this hunger. Returning late to my host-home and being served a plate of food while sitting alone at a table for four doesn’t quite do the job. Returning home to Farm house, to 16 other hungry bellies and a kitchen full of spices and experimentation, fills me up so incredibly, happily well.

I miss loved-ones, I miss cooking, I miss peanut butter and kale and I am working on filling my empty spaces or at least being more responsible for them so that they don’t gather dust or break before I find something good to put in them.


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