Je me deux, said Rimbaud in a letter to a friend;
yes, I two myself.
Has there ever been a more succinct
yet eloquent expression
of the human Self
struggling with its unity?
–Jay V. R.
Absence is absence the way a chair is a chair or a pig is a pig and not a table; that is, until the pig dies, is stuffed, taxidermy style–I think we could say, taxidermed. A taxidermed pig could be set as a coffee table before a couch. Then the pig would be a table, function supplants form, much the way a chair used as a night table becomes a table next to a bed. The difference between the pig and the chair is the difference between myself and my couch; however, a pig can be one of two kinds of pigs, a living pig or a stuffed pig. In this context we see clearly that existence precedes essence. Nonetheless, there is no such taxidermy for absence; absence is absence, yet not absence alone.
Absence is presence as well. This idea is not new, this present-absence, an absence that is also a kind of presence at times denser than the kind of physical presence that displaces even space. It has the ability to become the kind of presence we have in some things, both physical and metaphysical, not in nothing, which in turn of paradox is always something, otherwise there wouldn’t even be the word ‘nothing,’ quite literally, no thing.
Now, this idea that ‘nothing’ refers to something is also not new; in turn, we understand the presence of any absence. But does this absence that is presence actually displace in the same way a body does space? And we do displace space around us, wherever we are, not only in rooms, but in parks as well, alone on the beach at sunrise in Montauk too. I have asked this question before: Does absence displace the way the earth does or the moon? Perhaps it does the way ice cubes do water? We should know that a planetary body in space displaces space by the same principal that an ice cube does water in a glass. We should also understand that a body in space responds to this displacement by other bodies larger than itself with what we call gravitational pull. Gravity is thus the displacement of space and how bodies in space react to this displacement in a curved environment. The way for the ice cube in its water is the same way for planets and moons and stars in space. Our sun, the ice cube, our solar system the water in the glass. Perhaps absence does not displace as does presence; it could not physically, but metaphysically, maybe. There are, as I have known, displacements in mind. (I recall that my mothers brain was being displaced by the blood that filled one hemisphere after her stroke.) My thoughts disgorging other thoughts; blood in the brain pushing it and applying pressure in a way that induces coma.
This present-absence certainly displaces the way lovers do one another, or the way they should each other, if their love is vibrant, is true, is organic. These are not naiveties on the part of the author; they do exist for the lover who is able to disgorge the ego of his loved one, another kind of displacement. Moreover, it is only when love is strongest, is the most of something it needs to be, does it displace in this way, does it remove or transform in the process. Surely only in this way could it displace the ego, the latter being the most necessary step in the advancement of love. What is the question? Does the love take a person out of himself, out of herself? If so, then it becomes a transcendental experience, for sure, moreover by necessity. But this idea of transcendence is getting away from furthering our under-standing of absence as presence.
Absence and presence; exclusive and mutual. Yet, we can be present and absent at the same time, no? To be absent from school is not the same as being absent in a relationship, for sure. They do share affinity for one another, though in a restricted way. We mostly understand both absence and presence superficially; we assume that they are as exclusive as black and white, or on and off. Yet, are they? It is true that they are distinct from one another as semantic opposites, or that they are mutually exclusive in their categorically restrictive meaning: yes, I am absent is exclusive of I am present in the strictest existential sense. Each has a relationship to the other in place similar to that of matter and antimatter in space, we might say, or perhaps we should say, the way here and there are mutually exclusive, except only in context, only relatively against the other as a fixed constant. I am here in my living room and not there in my kitchen although I am here in my apartment and not outside on the street yet I am here in Brooklyn and not there in Manhattan as I am here in New York City and not there in Yonkers but I am here in New York State, and so on. Here and there are exclusive circles of containment, although the circles are concentric. Is there an analogous concentricity of circular containment for absence and presence? Perhaps this is how we should understand it, although this is not exhaustive of everything I am trying to say herein about absence and presence.
Is it too simple to say that presence is anti-absence and that absence is anti-presence? But what does that say that anyone could understand; you shouldn’t need a degree in theoretical physics to get what I’m trying to say. Both are mutually exclusive of the other, they are mutually annihilating forces, matter and anti-matter, as I have drawn in analogy; this absence and this presence function this way? There is a present-absence that exists apart from the force of each residing separately; a kind of parallel metaphysics of absence where neither presence excludes absence nor vice-versa.
Now, if someone your lover is here and she leaves, her absence is larger than was her presence; her return would displace the absence that had filled the space she had left empty, but the largeness of that absence would leave its after-image superimposed over the presence. Would there be effluence, confluence or influence? They are, once again, in the parallel metaphysical universe, mutual, contingent, coextensive, yet competing states, waning and waxing perpetually. Absence and presence are then connected yet exclusive, mutual in contingencies necessary for each other to exist, but annihilating in co-spatiality. Moreover, the hereness or thereness of absence and presence is of paramount importance for our understanding the mutual effects of both on each other.
She is not here; she is absent; she is there, present somewhere else. Nevertheless, her absence is felt; it imposes itself on me, it becomes present. Her presence somewhere else is not felt there where I am not, nor here where she is not. I am not there, I am here. Here is where her absence is and there is where her presence resides; so, I feel her absence as presence and her presence where I am not as a truer absence; unfelt, inarticulate, indefinable. Who is she? Some of you may ask. What is she? Too many of you still want to know, and even that has its ambiguities. What am I? Am I a man? Am I Catholic. Am I Italian-Americam, Irish American, French American, French-Swiss American? What am I? Where amI from? Where am I going? What am I doing? What I do what I am? To do and to be–what does it mean to have? What do I have? To have to be or not to have to be; what is it that happens when I become or when I am becoming? I am not being, true? To be absent or to be present, to be both or neither or something else yet? Absent-presence; present-absence–never the twain, you know; never the twain. Wrong? Wherefore art thou present; wherefore art thou absent? To be present by any other name would still be there, be here, wherever here or there is in relation to where I am. Between–am I ever between here and there. Every entrance I remember having written is in the between, not just in between, but in the between, and between is Be Tween, to be two. Je me deux, Rimbaud said in a letter to I forget whom.
To two or not to two . . .