Sunday, August 9, 2009

On Parting and Language

Upon the occasion of two friends parting the Germans say, "Aufwiederhoren" or "Aufwiedersehen," which mean, respectively, "until I hear from you" or "until I see you" (again). The English language does not conceptualize parting in the same manner. We say, "Goodbye," which I assume comes from the idea of passing-by, as if two travelers on same road who shared a nights solace together, but who are ultimately passing by. We wish one another well, "good by," as in the military idiom "by your leave," and continue on our own distinct path. We have passed, our expression says, and it was that moment of our passing that marks our time together. There is no past nor a future in this expression. Simply a statement of the present moment of two linear trajectories coinciding for a moment in space and time. This is, I feel, a failure of our language. We must learn to part with an expression of a desire for futurity which simultaneously transmits the past that has been shared. We are not, after all, atoms that move blindly along lines in space. We are, rather, the species who is endowed with the capacity to re-turn to the moment of passage, metaphorically, literally, fantastically. We are the animal who can, and should, I think, say at the moment of parting: Until I see or hear from you again. Until you re-turn to me, and I re-turn to you.

My last Church Girl is leaving after almost a summer of time learning one another. This event is the occasion of my reflection on language. She says to me at the doorstep of her church, I don't know how to say goodbye. And I say, "The Germans say, 'Until later.' So let's say that instead." I will have to reflect with greater care on the impact she has had on me, on the demons her presence summoned out of my memory, and the promise of community of friendship offered. It will be impossible to capture in words, and the prospect of such a daunting task strikes me now, as I am spent from a long days work, as exhausting. I defer, then, to another time and head-space. No doubt she will appear in my writings as a phantom for a good long while: the effect, always, of a new friend, especially one who is parting.

Until later, then.


Beth Rhodes said...

"see you later" is much better, I think.

Rose Renae said...

Until later friend.