I've been wondering recently about how people simply vanish from our lives and how we vanish from other peoples' lives--all this vanishing while we're still alive. So far I've thought of two reasons.
There is the pace of modern living which makes intimacy difficult in spite of emailing; we just can't, we feel, spend or take the time it takes to grow a relationship. More recently I've thought we vanish from each other's lives when we can no longer be playful together. Put another way, our games have become finite (winners and losers) -- as if we have lost touch with a playfulness which is infinite, where the goal of the play is to just keep on playing and where we change the rules to make this happen.
Well, your pithy play gym certainly engaged my thinker ! I have watched my mind realize once again that it can never fathom the big stuff and relax into the wonder . Below are some quotes from the Irish poet/scholar John O’Donohue who has much to say on the theme of absence/presence in his book ‘Eternal Echoes’.
“Absence is such a powerful theme because such a vast quantity of our identity lies out of reach in (the) unknown and largely unknowable region (of our subconscious)”
“ There is also a whole region of the absent which embraces not the vanished but that which has not yet arrived.... events, persons, thoughts and novelties ahead which have not yet arrived. This is the territory of the unknown.”
“Much of our thinking endeavors to invite the unknown to disclose itself. This is especially true of questions. The question is the place where the unknown becomes articulate and active in us. The question is impatient with the unrevealed. It reaches forward to open doors in the unknown. The question attempts to persuade absence to yield its concealed presences.”
After reading from the beginning on this subject, I'm reminded of the idea that nothing can be created without something else being destroyed and I wonder if the converse is also true. A building can not be demolished without creating a big pile of rubble. But does this hold true in the non-physical world?
There is something about choices here-conscious or not. If I choose one thing I am destroying the possibility of something else. If someone has vanished from my life, where are they? This goes back to peek-a-boo and the developmental stage of Object-Permanence (I forget who calls it that) where a child learns that things still exist even if they can't be seen. If a friend is out of my life for a period of time is s/he still my friend? For me, this comes down to how good I feel about myself that day and how I interpret our last meetings. "Why did my friend leave me?" or "Why did I leave my friend?" can get tangled up in previously unrelated stories I tell myself about what a terrible person I am.
But what about the self? A few people wrote about vanishing from oneself and I feel like I understand that state of being, but now I'm wondering about peek-a-boo. If I can't see/feel myself, where am I? By destroying my sense of myself, what did I create? My intuition tells me that by thinking about it this way will keep me from vanishing as much. But doesn't it feel wonderful to have been vanished and then return to yourself? Isn't coming home to yourself as purely joyful as a child playing peek-a-boo?
And isn't it wonderful when someone you haven't seen in a long time suddenly comes back into view.
I love the shift from absence to destruction. Destruction could be seen as the hidden history of absence, perhaps, or one of the hidden histories. I am remembering critiques of "sentimentality" that showed up in literary criticism for a while, be it sentimental depictions of the poor or nostalgia for something past (something constructed as "the past" through writing or art). There is safety, relief, perhaps violence, in the distance from which we feel pity, sweet sadness of empathy, whatever.
On the peekaboo question. I think I dared mention Freud's fort-da game a while ago (paranoia of ego: my post has vanished). Discussion of peekaboo revives that. Part of that game in which the child enjoys repeatedly throwing an object out of his crib on a string and pulling it back in is about mastering absence--ego-building, I'm sure. And fort-da has been taken as a kind of rudimentary act of representation ("re-presentation" as it was always written for a while in lit theory).
Absence is a precondition of language. Language is always a sign of absence. These are vague generalizations and Joan's recognition of "space" is much more accessible and immediate and workable. But they could be related.
By contrast to the toy on a string: the reappearance of someone, their popping back into my life, often feels like a gift, (a "present"), a boon, grace, maybe because/when I've given up anxious expectancy, entitlement, or (a mistitled) hope. This giving up may be my glimpse of what it could be like more of the time, if I could let go of that string (of projection? of a depressive's refusal to lose and mourn?) more of the time.
On the other hand, sometimes such a reappearance feels like an assuaging of a pain I wasn't aware of having. I become aware I had been missing the person. Their absence seems now to have been contributing to a homogeneous, featureless cloud of depression or anxiety.I'm not sure there's anything to be learned from this phenomenon. If I were more present and mindful sooner, I wouldn't get the "gift." But isn't this almost superstitious, magical thinking? What if they didn't reappear but died instead?
A further thought on "vanishing" via a stanza from "Oh," a poem by C.K. Williams discussed by Ira Sadoff in the most recent ed. of American Poetry Review. The poet is talking about his dead friend, the poet Harold Brodkey:
But no, leave it alone. Harold's gone, truly gone, and isn't it unforgiveable, vile, to stop loving someone, or to stop being loved; we don't mean to lose friends, but someone drifts off, and we let them, or they renounce us, or we them, or we're hurt, like flowers, for god's sake, when really we're prideful brutes, as blunt as icebergs.