White spaces filled with white noise

I heard a message earlier this week about creating margins in life. The speaker used a phrase that I thought was interesting to describe the gaps we need to create in our personal lives. He called those gaps “white spaces,” like margins on a book’s page or on a piece of a manuscript.

As I thought about it more, I realized how easy it is to fill the white margins on a page. A crayon, a pen, even a spilled cup of coffee can permanently fill a margin. The white space on a canvas can be gone in a second if you dump a bucket of paint on it. Or an artist can take many, many hours to carefully cover that white space with delicate strokes and a picture that takes your breath away.

And as I thought about white spaces, I started to think of white noise.

White noise is that hissing noise that comes out your TV when the screen looks like a snowstorm. You know what I’m talking about, those times when the cable comes unplugged and all you get is a field of black and white pixels in a chaotic mess.

And the audible cacophony that comes with it….that’s white noise. It’s the same static that you hear when you can’t find the right radio station. It’s dull, lifeless, and has no meaning other than to let you know that it’s there. You can’t find what you’re looking for to catch your attention and all you have is that annoying hum and hiss of static.

White spaces are those margins, those areas in our lives where we separate out time and attention between the job and the hobbies and the family and the “me-time” and the thousand other voices screaming for our next fifteen minutes.

Sometimes, maybe more times than we’d like to admit, we use white noise to fill the white spaces in our lives. We use the least amount of our attention and efforts to fill time in our lives that isn’t taken up already. It’s easy to veg in front of the TV for an hour instead of working out. It’s easy to pointlessly surf the web instead of writing an email to a friend you haven’t seen in a long time. What’s worse is that white noise is no longer filling the gaps in our lives; it’s filling the main areas as well.

Our challenge is to take the white noise in life and replace it with meaning. Recapture those pockets of time and fill them with purpose. Eliminate the static and let the noise turn into harmony.

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