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Filling our ’empty spaces’

Filling our ’empty spaces’
Filling our ’empty spaces’
Dr. Wayne Willis

“We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny, but what we put into it is ours.” —Dag Hammarshjold

Have you ever puzzled over what the German philosopher Martin Heidegger termed the “thrownness” of life? Why were we dropped into or hurled into or fit into the world right here and right now?

We didn’t ask to be born. We had no say about what our family or ethnic heritage would look like. We didn’t choose our skin color or eye color or how tall or short we would be. We had no control over the natural propensities or deficits for art, music and athletics, our unique inheritance, we would introduce to the world.

Within those built-in parameters or margins, how much room do we have to maneuver?

An Appalachian girl, abandoned by her mother at an early age, was being reared by an abusive aunt and a lecherous uncle. When her impoverished family could not provide her with a bathtub, and a school counselor advised her that she was dirty and smelled, she tried out for and made the swim team so she could get five showers a week. Too poor to buy or rent a musical instrument, she joined the school band, determined to learn to play whatever school instrument was not taken. Instead of conforming to a victim’s script, she used her ingenuity and imagination to overcome.

Booker T. Washington, who became a great scientist, wrote: “I have been a slave once in life — a slave in body ­— but I have since resolved that no inducement or influence would ever make me a slave in soul, in my love for humanity and my search for truth.”

We choose how we fill, within the framework of our one unique life’s givens, the empty spaces.