"A first step in spiritual progress is to find the empty place, the hole in the fabric of meaning and culture through which the infinite and mysterious can enter. That emptiness may be a lull in time, a moment of reflection, a day off, or an uninvited reverie. Spatially it may be represented in a broad expanse of land or in an empty chapel or meditation room. Emotionally it may be a painful loss or breakdown. Intellectually it could be an open question, a doubt, or a new way of thinking.

"A theatrical stage, a movie screen, a dancer's floor, and a painter's canvas are also empty spaces where the imagination can make contact with the infinite. Insofar as it is empty, all art is religious. A canvas is an oculus if the painter treats it as such. The art of painting on an empty canvas is a meditation in the strict sense: it opens the artist to contact with all that is beyond.

"This kind of ignorance and emptiness doesn't lead to negative despair or nihilism; it leads to emotional security and a deep comic sense of life. There is something ironic and absurd about living a serious life even though we don't know the origin, the end, or the meaning of it all. Spiritual teachers often laugh at this kind of ignorance, not a laugh of scorn but of appreciation for the willingness of human beings to go on even though they don't know what it's all about.

"On that rainy day long ago I stared at the stone floor of the Pantheon, getting wet from the drizzle that sprinkled in from the hole in the roof. I had seen pictures of divine grace as drops of rain, and now for the first time I saw how grace pours into us — when we are foolish enough to leave a hole in our intelligence or smart enough to install a well-oiled door in the top of our heads."