Saturday, July 26, 2014

more radiant than the next

For God's sake, let's take the word 'possess' and put a brick round its neck and drown it ... We can't possess one another. We can only give and hazard all we have.
 ― Dorothy Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon

Transitions are very discomforting things.
I always wonder how master of ceremonies, teachers, homilists, and news writers manage to write transitions from one seemingly disparate subject to the next. The art of connections is a precise and terrifying science.
Because transitions do not come naturally to human beings. Transitions are usually sort of clumsy, awkward, and uncomfortable. Like a car shifting from park to reverse, there is usually a clunk of some sorts and a bit of grinding gears.
Human beings, I think, are the funniest creatures ever, because we are so adaptable. 
I can be at home in my house as if I never left it.
I can also sit in my little dorm room in Howard Hall, and not feel at all nonplussed by the knowledge that I awoke that morning in my happy little house, with the smell of my dad's pancakes on the stove.
I can sit here, in the warm family room, listening to my siblings talk over one another in their fierce debate over whether or not human brains can train themselves to be more perceptive, and feel perfectly at peace. Never mind that this morning I was running through Central Park and climbing the steps of my house up to the third floor room, overlooking Upper East Side Manhattan.
How do our brains do this?
 I have no clue.
We have the uncanny ability to make ourselves at home, to assimilate to our surroundings at a horrendously speedy pace.
This fact, however, is lost on a human being in transition.
For example, this past week, I moved out of Notre Dame for the last time (in the foreseeable future. Let us not be overdramatic about this. Only a Sith deals in absolutes); I began to get settled into my new home in NYC; and then I arrived home.
I don't think my mind has processed everything that has happened in the past week. It certainly cannot grasp that it was only one week ago I was speeding across campus to obtain raw bacon, cajoling the Legends of Notre Dame catering staff into frying said bacon (assuming a conspiratorial and familiar air and pleading smile will take you far), assisting in repairing a wardrobe emergency that occurred during Ms. Azalea's "Fancy" (overly enthusiastic dancing certainly comes with occupational hazards), laughing with dear friends, saying goodbyes, being sent forth, last visits to the Grotto--all these moments from last Saturday feel like ages and ages ago.
Then, just twenty-four hours later, I was in my friend's Chicago apartment, having a midnight chat.
Then, just twenty-four hours after that, I was in the basement of a New York theatre, watching a very New York-ish musical theatre cabaret happening before my eyes, and drinking a rather overpriced gin and tonic. 
Just to add to the Wonderland-like nature of this past week, Vision sort of takes over your memories of Notre Dame. While immersed in Vision, it is hard to remember all the other things that happen at Notre Dame besides the glorious and exhausting routine of the Vision week. Thus, part of transitioning out of Vision and out of Notre Dame meant consciously bringing to mind each of the moments that is not Vision. Remembering all the other 99% of Notre Dame memories and saying good bye to those, I found myself clinging very tightly to the familiar. I watched everyone else leave, returning to familiar homes and faces. And I was jumping into the unknown. But all I wanted to do was dig in my heels and plant roots.
Once I looked back over the summer, I realized that I was being prepared from the very beginning to leave. From the moment I unpacked too many wall decorations in my dorm room, I was starting the beautiful process of departure.
I was glad, even though it was impractical and highly inconvenient, that I had moved into that little room so completely, made it so utterly homey.
Because the very point of being human is to make yourself at home, even though you're going to go.
Wherever we touch down, it is our duty to put down roots. We know--ah, we know all too well--that we are going to be picked up and moved, but I think that's the very point. One of the saddest jokes every played on us but sweetest gifts ever given to us is the feeling of not-being-at-home while at home. The fact that we have to keep moving, even if we don't want to, and then, eventually, we move on.
The point is to grow attached, to let the various homes we find throughout our life mold us and shape us, form who we are, and then let them go, cast them aside, and begin anew.
But the letting go ought to be painful. 
One should probably weep when we bid goodbye to people we love or places that have settled themselves so permanently in the geography of our hearts. There is nothing shameful about loving something so dearly it hurts to cast it off. The sadness is part of the sweetness. Anything that is worth doing in our lives is going to come with a goodbye, because we are temporal. The greater and more beautiful the experience: attending an excellent college, finding a best friend, falling in love, the costlier and more painful the goodbye--but infinitely worth having. If we are ever going to go about loving--rather than possessing--then we must hazard ourselves. We cannot keep each person or experience at arm's length, moving through the world like a tumbleweed, without developing roots. 
We must put down roots, take them up again, feel displaced, be filled with nostalgia, and be utterly restless, because none of us have yet achieved the beatific vision.

The first goodbyes were so surreal, it was hard to feel anything other than the utter joy in feeling that we had been sent forth properly. My classmates and colleagues had shared beautiful words of wisdom, preparing us for the next chapter, which would indubitably be better than the last. We had danced. We had thanked one another and sung with one another. I had joyfully led a group of mentors in sending off a friend with the cheer: "Be God's love." 
I ran to the Basilica. I left my intentions at the Grotto.
As I was racing to catch the train, my dear friend ran up to say our quick goodbye.
We hugged one another and burst into tears.
It is almost overwhelming to try to grasp the amount of change and transition that has enveloped the past four weeks, the past four months, and certainly the past four years. And yet, I so impatiently await the adventures and joys of the next four, heightened by the sharp, tart notes of nostalgia.
I should hope I would feel a tug of nostalgia occasionally--and perhaps in certain seasons, rather frequently--reminding me that there are people and places in my life to whom it has been an honor and a bittersweet joy to say goodbye to.

The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.
 ― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

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