Sunday, March 13, 2011

I don't know why you say goodbye

...I say hello.

I wish.

I write about it every so often: one of the worst things about being a teacher in Korea is all the goodbyes. I've hated goodbyes-- the "I don't know if I'll ever see you again" goodbyes-- my whole life. Even though our school faculty is pretty stable... actually, they're not stable at all, but I mean the individuals don't turn over much from year to year... it's part of the deal. And my outside-school friends, hashers and veggie group people, go far too often; it seems like goodbye forever to someone every couple of months. It's only a few months, for example, till a hasher I took to immediately, Katy (see photo on my previous entry), leaves us for good. (That's an odd phrase; there's nothing good about it.)

And now Lauren, probably my best teaching friend, is by her own admission beginning to detach emotionally as she prepares to move to Denmark in three months. I simply won't know what to do with my Sunday mornings anymore and I miss her already.

A goodbye of this sort feels almost like a little death; the person seems to shrink from a living, breathing, literally life-size friend to a collection of pixels. Even if someone is just leaving Korea to go home or to travel, I think of the family members and pets I've lost-- we've all lost-- and feel just a tiny hint of the same sadness. I suppose it's a foreshadowing of when each of us will have to say goodbye to everything we know.

The other half of this equation, which I think I always write about in the same post as the "I hate goodbyes" stuff, is that Buddhist philosophy has really helped me. I find a lot of Buddhist thought to be so valuable because it doesn't try to deny the nature of life; I mean it doesn't say that death isn't real or that we can avoid suffering, but just tells us how to look at it in a way that minimizes suffering and increases compassion.

I've found the art, the music, the ritual, and the dogma to be very off-putting. But after the hash yesterday I walked to Itaewon and enjoyed a feast of book-buying (that's my retail therapy) and among the books I got was one called Buddhism Without Beliefs that crystallizes the philosophy, shorn of its otherworldly trappings, in plain English.

I feel a little wiser when I detach and achieve a quiet mind. But I still wish people didn't have to leave.

As Holden Caulfield said, "Don't tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."

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