Though seemingly benign, ‘presence’ and the lack thereof play an interesting role in the human condition. In essence these two states (‘presence’ and the lack of ‘presence’) correspond to the sensory input one is subjected to, but this sensory input has effects on an individual even when the sensory data is no longer present. That is, being Gone does not necessarily correlate with what one would normally imagine (due to the colloquial definition of ‘gone’), because the entity in question is not truly ‘gone’.
In other words, we must not confuse being Gone with being Absent. The difference is that influence continues to exist in the former, but does not in the latter.
Let’s look at an example:
A group of people have been working for years in a building insulated with asbestos. Office workers generally were not exposed to the asbestos, but a number of the in-house repair workers were. Several of those repair workers develop cancer and many of them die. After the first worker’s death the asbestos in the building is removed.
The asbestos is now physically removed (Absent), but this means different things for different people. For the office workers the asbestos never truly posed a danger to them in a direct way (as compared to the repair workers). To many of those office workers the asbestos is now Absent, but to some of them it is Gone with a weak residual influence manifesting itself in the mind of the office worker in differing ways – say, something like “be careful not to forget that your place of employment put you in danger”. On the other hand, the repair workers have a different perspective. For none of them see the asbestos as Absent, they all see it as Gone. Gone because it has a strong residual effect: the bringer of cancer, death, anxiety.
So some things are Gone and continue to influence, while other things are truly Absent with no lasting effect… So what you say?
Let’s transpose this to another example:
George W. Bush presumably won two US elections and his administrations initiated a great deal of action across our planet. Now he is no longer in office but, is he Gone or is he Absent? When we get down to intimate detail regarding the functioning of the politico-economic system, do we see a continuity or break in influence? Rethinking ‘presence’ and the lack thereof allows us to drop the naïve view of one being ‘gone’ and allows us to conceptually understand that a lack of presence does not automatically mean a lack of influence, of continuity.