The Dynamic Dance: On Appearance and Nonappearance

By Adam J. Pearson

The mystic and painter Pema Lomos asked me today “what is the opposite of appearance?” I answered that the opposite of appearance is nonappearance. The opposite of a bird appearing in a given place, for instance, is a bird not appearing in that same place.

When we take relative perspectives into account, the situation is more complicated than this simple explanation would suggest, however. Appearance and non-appearance both depend on whose perspective we are considering. If we are considering the perspective of a man sitting on a bench in the park, who first sees no bird appear, but then sees a bird fly in (appear in his field of vision) and then disappear off in the horizon, then it seems that he is constant and the bird appears at one time and disappears at another.

If, however, we consider the perspective of the bird, the situation is reversed; the bird is constant and it is the man who first appears (as the bird enters the park) and disappears (as the bird leaves the park).

We can also take both perspectives into account and say that both the man and the observer are constant for an interval of time (the interval during which they are alive) and that they both pass in and out of each other’s field of vision a they move relative to one another.

The important point in this discussion is that appearance and nonappearance are relative to particular observers. When we consider them in any situation, we need to ask from whose perspective or frame of reference we are considering the matter. Life exists in a dynamic dance between appearance and nonappearance out of the perspectives of particular observers.

The unseen can become the seen and the seen can become the unseen relative to a given pair of eyes.  Events and objects dance in and out of view on different length-scales from the level of great clusters of galaxies to the tiny level of subatomic particles.  Our human eyes are but one set of eyes that are observing this great cosmic dance.


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