The Absence of Presence

Fried chicken is delicious.

I can’t exactly place my finger on what about this gourmet, southern delicacy intrigues me.

Maybe, it is the satisfying cadence of its crispy exterior crunching.

Perhaps, it is the savory juice that comforts yearning taste buds.

Or maybe it’s the multitude of southern-fried memories with my family enjoying fried chicken that captures my attention.

What I do know is that thinking about fried chicken causes my salivary glands to activate and that I now have a hankering for fried chicken!

Fascinatingly, the mind causes physical changes in our bodies even while the object of our desire is completely absent.

The same phenomenon occurs with people (and yes…I did just compare people to fried chicken).

We have anticipations and memories, each of which invokes various emotions, thoughts, and feelings. There is a certain sense of excitement when we drive home after time away. A profound sense of loss, lack, and heartbreak overwhelms us when we have to say goodbye to a close friend or loved one. We can think of a specific person–our memories of them, our hopes of who they will become, all of the ideas associated with them–and that changes us.

A person may be completely absent but can somehow cause us to feel a certain way or think a certain thing or act a certain way. This wonder leads us to the conclusion that (1) our minds are powerfully creative and (2) that there seems to be something happening beyond what meets the eye–that existence means much more that pure sight, smell, touch, taste, and scent.

I think that this ‘more-than-meets-the-eyeness’ of reality invites us into a startling truth: there is a profound sense of absence in all things.

We never fully experience the fried chicken even as we eat it.

We never completely experience another person.

There is always something missing as we walk about the world.

This is an absence, however, that is only experienced by presence. The only way that we come in contact with the absence in all things is by coming in contact with all things around us.

To some, the idea that we can never fully experience an individual (or fried chicken for that matter) is terrifying, disappointing, and painful.

“What’s the point of being intimate with another if I will never wholly see, understand, or know them?” we ask. I think that this absence entices us and invites us to attempt to enact the impossible. When we lean into the absence of presence, I think that we will discover us uncovering a more beautiful present.

We can share absence–of the living and the dead–with one another and in so doing, we can discover the joyous surprise of unyielding, reimagined presence.

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