My freshman year of college I took my first and only drawing class. One of the few 3-hour class sessions I remember enjoying (purely for the abstract approach it took to drawing as opposed to the boring technicalities we usually were taught) was one focusing on drawing the “negative space” around an object. Instead of drawing the positive (the object itself), we were told to instead draw everything but the chair, and when we were finished an outline of the chair would remain. I found the exercise fascinating and the final product became one of the only assignments from that class I valued once the semester ended.
Recently when having a serious conversation with someone, I found I’ve been focusing on negative space in many areas of my life, most concretely in my interactions with people. “Conscious” people (and if you’re a conscious being, you know what I mean) have learned that a conversation is as much about what is said as what is not said. This realization makes speaking with people doubly confusing because you must analyze omitted phrases on top of everything else. These verbal exclusions are so commonplace most people aren’t even aware they pay attention to it. But they do, everyone does. There have been many times I’ve relayed an important conversation to a third party only to realize I cannot accurately portray what had happened. So much is lost when pauses, misspoken words, and elusive sentences are removed.
No wonder I love Persuasion so much. My life is an ironic parody of Anne Elliot’s. This epiphany is not consoling, although I find mine rarely are.