The Power of Emptiness

form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form. Form itself is emptiness, emptiness itself form. — Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra

[UPDATE] I will be giving a lecture at the University in Magdeburg and Stendal on June 19 and 20, 2012.

[UPDATE] - The demonstration with the Magdeburg Hemispheres has been replicated in Grenoble in 2007 and BoingBoing shows the video on the occasion of the anniversary of the original experiment on May 8.

Read more about the history and science of the Magdeburg Hemispheres at the Skulls in the Stars blog. via BoingBoing.

Otto von Guericke's 'Magdeburg hemispheres' experiment

Magdeburg for me was always about the power of emptiness, how emptiness holds together the two halves of the whole. (read more about the experiment first conducted in 1656) This Fall for the first time I had the chance to visit Magdeburg, a town that has been around for over 1200 years.

Magdeburg was a hot place some 1000 years ago where more history happened that in many of today's capitals of the world. Since 1991 Magdeburg has a college with an additional campus in Stendal, a town that has been around for only 800 years.

The Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences had invited me to give a talk about Memory: „Domi-No:Digital Media as Memory Places“ [the talk was similar to the talk I gave at TEDx Vienna] an interesting topic in a part of the world that has switched memories recently as the Berlin Wall fell and the German Democratic Republic disappeared.

Prof. Dr. Michael Herzog had invited me to give the talk and Mr. Klaus Schmotz, the Oberbürgermeister of Stendal (what's an Oberbürgermeister in English?) received us in his office at the main square in Stendal.

It was quite a day late in October, Michael had managed all the logistics which was quite a task as I gave the talk twice - in Magdeburg and in Stendal and we had to use some eight different trains, busses, subways, trams to get to the different places. I always enjoy working with students and this was especially rewarding as the two groups of students were very interested and asked lots of questions. I hope to be able to go back and work more interactively with the groups. At the end of the day a group led by the Prorector picked my brains about academic outreach and alumni programs in the US to learn from cultural differences how the university can benefit. A very interesting discourse. Then after a dinner more trains and busses and trams until we finally reached home by 11 PM for some well-deserved classical music.

There's much more to Magdeburg than emptiness but the students can definitely benefit from understanding that there is a lot of memory that is not remembered and that not knowing is sometimes the most valuable piece to learn.

More to follow...

Originally published 15 Dec 2011