Dwelling in the Great Space

Toinette Lippe is a Chinese Brush artist and author of two books on the subject of artful impeccability and living a life of integrity and usefulness. In this article she shares some facets of her journey that led to a realization of "the great space."


Emptiness is the track on which the centered person moves. — Tsongkhapa

Toinette_N.NovickFor me, the seeds were sown in London in the late 1950s when, quite by chance (or so I thought) I began attending philosophy classes at the School of Economic Science in London (not to be confused with the London School of Economics, which is part of London University). By the time I arrived in New York City in 1964, its affiliate, the School of Practical Philosophy, had just opened its doors in Manhattan, and I continued my study of Advaita Vedanta there. The twenty-nine years I spent learning and teaching at the school shaped and informed my life.

I first became aware of the great space in which we live and have our being when, some years after I began working at Alfred A. Knopf, I edited an exquisitely illustrated edition of the Tao Te Ching (which has now sold over a million copies). This is how Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translated Chapter 11:


Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape the clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes that make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.

Somehow I had never been aware of this emptiness before, or perhaps it is more accurate to say that I had not paid full attention to it.

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