Presence/Absence

Some threads of my Philosophy and Media class as well as personal experiences have got me thinking recently about the ideas of presence and absence.

One of the things we talked about in class was Presence and how language/signs/media can make something present, in a sense through representation. A photograph, for example, can capture someone and make someone present, even when the person is not actually here. This is powerful – a person who is not here is now here (and can be made here), but at the same time this presence can only exist because of absence. The presence brought forth by the photograph only makes sense (and is significant) in light of the person’s absence.

Absence is a very funny thing. It points to a lack, a want. But isn’t it just the heaviest thing? The greatest absence feels the most present; it’s all volume and emotion and hollowness and energy all at once, stuck and all over at the same time.

They say, of course, that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I believe the idea of fondness is a bit of a misrepresentation, because it’s too mild, too pleasant, too wind-blowing-through-open-windows-in-spring. Absence is much more terrible–it’s tricky and treacherous. Inconstant. Fullness and shortness of breath.

My phone wallpaper depicts the person I love and have lost and has been so for the past 10 months. Sometimes I no longer see the photo. Sometimes I pretend I do not. Sometimes I linger on purpose, trying to feel everything all at once so that I can use it up in one moment and move on to the next–sacrifice this moment to secure the safety of the next. But mostly, I see it, I see him, and most of every day is a collection of one-moment thoughts about my father so fleeting that I almost do not have them.

I wish I could tell you why two things that are supposed to be opposites can be the very same thing. I wish I could come to terms with why as life goes on, we only accumulate more deaths. I wish I could say for sure that presence is more comforting than absence. I wish I could talk intellectually about the ideas of presence and absence without thinking of my own gaps and spaces. I wish I can do anything now and not have it be tempered or accompanied or stained by signs of (for lack of a better word) loss.

I think I’ve stopped wallowing, but I have never been able to identify which stage I’m in. I think most of the time I pass phases or states, like you know in science when something passes from a liquid to gaseous state. On most days it’s easy, but sometimes when the world stills, Absence becomes very obvious.

Perhaps it is easier to change my wallpaper. It’s such a great photo though. He’s radiant as the sun. In a way, he has never been more present (and absent).

(Happy birthday month, daddy.)

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