“Only those who know relation and who know of the presence of the You have the capacity for decision. Whoever makes a decision is free because he has stepped before the countenance.”
-Martin Buber, I and Thou
Scene No. 1: The distilled mixture of solitude and loneliness in my wife’s traveling absence is a curious tonic in my cup. It is the house favorite in June and a bit heavy on the bitters.
Scene No. 2: Visa restrictions have prevented me from traveling to Norway to help train young leaders in our movement. Limitation reveals a familiar villain.
Scene No. 3: One of my closest friends in Geneva is getting married this week. Secondary characters get ready to make introspective soliloquies.
Libretto: All of these are scenes of a vanishing act. The absence of a person, of an experience, and of a relational status. How we look at them —the road before us, the empty room we sit in, or the 2 people standing in a place where we are used to seeing 1— is as much about carefully watching a space transformed as it is about how we see ourselves changing in relation to it.
Pay careful attention.
These absences force change because they demand that we reframe ourselves in relation to our world. They ask us to touch “emptiness” and perhaps call it by a different name. They grant us an opportunity to creatively reposition ourselves, and in doing so to re-present ourselves to ourselves as paradigm-shifted objects.
Never static. Never finished. Never unidirectional. Always sculpted by time and surprised with light.
Regardless, a memory dent is left where a space was once occupied.
So you trace the textured lining of the empty surface with your index finger to remember how “empty” space feels and how deep the memory goes. The subtle bumps of fabric on your skin remind you of how finely detailed life’s surface can be. The layers under your pressure ripple and disappear into flatness. Your eyes take in new areas of light and darkness and you remember the genesis of things.
You begin to appreciate that absence is nothing other than the discovery of a different kind of presence.
‘Cause you know you left a hollow
Where your body cut an alcove
-Dustin Tebbutt “Breach”