Finding Meaning and Letting Go

One of the central points of The Unbearable Lightness of Being is that we choose to create our own coincidences. At a certain point we not only recognize things but decide to tie them to our poetic memory. Random facts of no consequence suddenly take on meaning and we then find ourselves building significance from a chain of circumstance. As Kundera puts it, “when the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.”

But along with the coincidence that brought Tomas and Tereza together there was the parallel romantic and terrible end of Anna and Vronsky in Anna Karenina. We choose to find beauty and create symmetry in life and love, but sometimes we need to look a little closer at that beauty. Sometimes we have to untangle the beauty and see it for the circumstance that it is.

You know, I never took Kim to the 94th Aerosquadron. That was where Helen and I had met and spent many an occasion. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve been to the nicest restaurant in College Park in the last 4 years. I’m guilty as charged for holding onto beauty.

There was a tiny, hidden park I used to love in High School. Merrill and I found it one day and spent three hours there swinging and hanging out in this little hut talking about everything that high school kids do when they pour out their hearts and become best friends who live in different states and wish they lived closer. But the terrible beautiful thing about that park is that I took a lot of people there. At first it became their park and not Merrill’s park. But then something changed: it became my park, my memory.

The same unfortunate truth has happened with so many other places. But that’s life: when we move on we can’t expect to leave memories unscathed. We want to preserve the beauty, the innocence, the moment. But life goes on and we shouldn’t be expected not to want to enjoy and appreciate the things that we always loved.

The classic mistake is the dancing couple who breaks up and gives up their cherished activity due to the memories. It’s going to happen that you share things with someone, but just because you’re sharing doesn’t mean you’re not learning something yourself. Just because you’re growing together doesn’t mean you’re not growing yourself.

It would be ridiculous for me to toss aside all the wonderful things I learned about myself, to forget the things I’m now knowledgeable about, or to avoid the subjects and places that have taken on meaning. I created that shared meaning and it’s okay for me to enjoy that meaning just for myself, or with whomever I so choose.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s ironic and bizarre both the professional and personal things I’ve found people to share in common lately. But I can’t fault myself for seeing the beauty, for connecting the dots, for seeing the obvious. But people, places, and events are unique and reminders will fade away like the warm weather. Still, the sun will return and new memories and beauties will be built: some conscious, and some unaware.

The trick is to accept the beauty while being careful, and push aside the pain while being respectful. Bridges are not to be burned, but new bridges must haveroom to be built.

There’s no such thing as finality in moving on, but we’ve just got to lookout for ourselves. So it goes, and so do I…


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