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On Leaving

From a certain point on,

there is no more turning back.
That is the point that must be reached.

Like the one who rows a boat,
I turn my back on my destination.

Interestingly, the word "to leave" originally comes from the Old English laefan which means "to let remain, remain, bequeath."

So what, you ask? It just struck me as odd because I would normally take leaving to mean as "going away," or "escaping," in other words as the act of the person who goes in the other direction from where he was. In other words, I thought to leave had an outward projection or vector on the part of the person who leaves while, as I now learn from good old etymology (and common sense revisited), leaving has more to do with from which one comes and what is left behind. Simply put, I thought it meant stealing away from it where now it really means giving (or "bequeathing") what is proper to what is left. It means letting it be--Gelassenheit.

Is that the answer to the question "Why leave?" Probably. We leave because what had hitherto been ours--possession, place, lover--must be left alone to be what it is.

But initially and for the most part, we think we leave something behind because it is no longer useful to us; perhaps it no longer amuses us and thus bores us; or it has become to heavy to lug around, like a burden that breaks my back. The act of leaving something, like the way we immediately leave a restaurant that we discover to be too expensive upon seeing the menu or the way we sometimes leave the receipt on the fast food tray, looks like an act of "doing away" with something like one does away with trash. If I do not need it, then the hell with it. I leave it.

You will always have enough reasons to leave it than to carry it. You will always have enough reasons to go than to stay.

But when it is no longer a question of leaving pricy restaurants or waste like receipts, when it is already a question of what really matters or what one values, then the decision to leave is suddenly bestowed with a weight far greater than the chance money I have in my wallet or the cheap paper in my pocket. It suddenly becomes a question that matters--not only for him that leaves but also for her that is left. For her that is left as well?

To be sure, that which is left appears to suffer no loss when it is left because as that which stays, it has to stay the same, has to remain the same, still has to be its whole self. She did not have to decide; so how can she be affected when anything at rest remains at rest unless an external force acts upon it. And he that leaves her does not act on her but acts away from her, escapes her, lets her be. True, he may have been a welcome guest, a good lover or it may have been a surprise gift; but a guest will always have to leave, a lover can only love incompletely, and a gift can be taken away; and what you are left with is still what was there before that contingent guest, this imperfect lover or an unexpected gift. What arrives must necessarily leave--"The trouble with hello is goodbye." She stays the same because she remains--the same. And experience tells us it is not the one who is left that bears a heavy heart; it is the one who leaves who is usually in tears.

Meanwhile, he who leaves initially suffers the loss and bears that weight in each outward step. He who leaves usually does not know where to go; and if ever there be any orientation in his tearful journey, he will always have to refer back to where he came from, like Goldilocks leaving a bread crumb trail. (This is why we always and cannot but look back.)

But unlike Goldilocks, he who really leaves--if his decision be absolute and thus without hope--knows that he may never come back. "I know that I may never pass this way again." To hope to return diminishes the honesty of leaving and strikes it as vain. When Moses left Egypt, he left it without the hope of any reditus or return. What is more, even if he lived till a hundred and twenty, he never did reach the promised land. Moses' life is sheer exodus: a leaving with neither arrival nor return.

Now this presents a problem for her that is left--even if the problem can only dawn upon her much, much later. Because you see, while he who left decided once and for all that he shall never return and such a decision is the motor which keeps him going on, she who is left, on her part, cannot but shake off the agony of waiting. She waits? Yes. But of course she won't tell you that. She will tell you that all is well after he left, that everything remains fine and rosy, that everything is what it has always been--the same. After all, it is a matter of pride.

Yet at those moments when the silence of his absence screams in the still night and echoes across the labyrinths of the mind, when memory and its knives come like thieves in the night, she will know in her heart that it is far better to leave than to be left behind--and that sometimes she can never deny that she steals glances at the window, frozen with the hope that one of those hazy figures from far away is his in a glorious return.


  1. i liked reading this entry... very insightful and profound (=

  2. ganda maoch. (eto lang ata ang naintindihan ko, haha) nakaka-relate ako in more ways than one:)


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