There Is A Light That Never Goes Out: On The Asymptotic Nature of Goodbye

2009 October 26
Hate To Break It To You is a recurring feature wherein we dispense succinct home truths that everyone could benefit from facing up to, unpleasant as they may be.

You can tell a lot about a person by how they act at the end. I’m not talking about death (although, I’m sure that’s illuminating as well), but the end of any big stage or circumstance – school, a relationship, a job. Or more precisely, you can tell a lot about a person by how they act when they know the end is coming. Do they put their feet up and coast? Mentally check out? Bury their head in the sand and refuse to acknowledge what’s happening? Come down with a case of maudlin nostalgia? The temptation is to start rewriting the hindsight history, being a little more charitable or a little more mercenary, whatever serves to the soften the inevitable blow. It wasn’t so bad. God, am I glad that’s over. You do what you have to.
526895126_22a055cd60Photo by drinksmachine
But on the whole, aside from death, we very rarely treat goodbyes as permanent. We move, leave jobs, graduate, but we promise (sincerely or otherwise) to keep in touch, to hang out, to see each other around. We deny that we’ll likely never associate with the ones we’re au revoiring again. Even in the case of break-ups, unless one party relocates to eastern Siberia, there’s still the specter of running into the one you used to love in the supermarket check-out line or tagged in a mutual friend’s facebook photo album. There’s always the door and human nature dictates that we’re loathe to ever close it all the way, for better or worse.

And to a large degree, social media has provided us with the perfect cop out to avoid doing this. No one is ever truly gone in a Googleable world. Forget about Paris, we’ll always have Twitter. Technology means that we can check in, keep tabs, lurk in a dark corner, observe from afar. It both prevents us from making a clean break and convinces us that we’re holding up our end of the “stay in touch”  bargain 140 characters or a single status update at a time. It’s cold comfort, but we’ll take it anyway, whatever keeps us from having to watch the closing credits scroll by. The End, after all, is just a little too uncomfortably black and white for most of us to embrace.

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