On Some Things That Do Not Exist

Cold, according to physics, does not exist. Energy exists. Heat exists. Even the average energy of all the particles in a room, which we call temperature, exists. Cold, however, is not a quantity that physics can measure and, therefore, not something it can claim exists. It is merely the absence of heat, which does exist, something our minds fool us into believing in simply because we have more heat than our surroundings. Cold is just a fabrication, a trick of the mind, an invention of our need to rationalize. It is not, in itself, real.

The same is true for shadow, which physics tells us is only the absence of light, and silence, which is nothing more consequential than a lack of sound. Our vocabulary is full of words that describe not actual things, but merely the absence of things that actually exist. These things do not exist, science claims, in themselves. They are only the reflections or quiet twins of things that actually exist. They are not real. 

But I have a challenge for you, now. Tell someone in the depths of their first real winter that the teeth they feel biting into them every time they open their door don’t exist and are merely a function of their being warmer than their surroundings. Tell a child sprinting down the hallways that shadows are nothing more than the absence of light and don’t exist on their own. Tell a teenager coming out to their parents that silence is just a word invented for the absence of sound, which, unlike silence, is real. No matter how many different ways you find to explain it or how brilliantly you argue, they will not believe you, and physics being on your side does not mean they are wrong. Cold exists. Silence exists. Darkness exists. The fact that science doesn’t recognize them, that they are not the things of facts and certainty, doesn’t make them any less real.

Do not take this for some kind of support for relativism, because it is not. To understand that there is more than one way to know things is not to argue that truth is relative. The earth warms because of our actions, whether we like it to or not, and murder is foul no matter what we choose to say about it. There are, however, ways to know the truth beyond the scientific method, and truths that cannot be known through it. Some things need to be discovered, learned, known, through feeling. Cold, silence, darkness; all of these things exist, have a real force and weight behind them that has nothing to do with their physical presence or ability to effect our bodies. To pretend otherwise or to forget this is to ignore a great amount of reality.

With excitement and optimism,

Alex