The Powerful League of Missing Persons

By Emanuel Derman
July 3, 2012

Sometimes, quite often, Absence is so powerful that it’s a Presence of its own.

I wrote a little about this in Models.Behaving.Badly. The positron was regarded as the absence of an electron in early quantum field theory, but turned out to be as real as anything. Pain, an apparently negative thing, is also real, perhaps more so than Joy, as described in Yehuda Amichai’s poem on The Precision of Pain. I once read a sequel to Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in which he claimed that, even after someone dear to him died, he was persuaded that they were still there by their presence in his thoughts and life.

I think of this again because there are some people I see very little, some even not at all, and yet … they are almost constantly with me, in my thoughts and affecting my actions. I don’t even mean “with me” in a subconscious way, but as a real force and presence, despite being almost out of contact.

It’s strange, and makes you realize the power of mind, spirit, thought, whatever you want to call it.

 

 

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