Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Never say "good bye"....

In JM Barrie's Peter Pan, the title character has what seems like a wonderful quote:
Never say good bye, because good bye means going away, and going away means forgetting. 
It's a popular quote because of the lovely sentiment behind it. Certainly it's also popular because for some people, this is exactly what happens. They are not good at keeping in touch, or in reconciling their pasts and their present, and so once they "go away", they don't look back.

But for me, it's an incredibly sad quote.

Perhaps partly because "never" is such a strong, even negative word for me. Whether for good or for bad, for positive or negative, never is a word that can rarely be kept and so should be rarely said. That is, whether it's a "good or positive resolution" (I will never curse again) or a bad/negative one (I will never speak to you again), never is an awfully long time and an awfully serious commitment.

Mostly though, it's a sad quote to me because going away should not mean forgetting, and certainly saying good bye should not mean forgetting.

I suppose it is because I've had to say a lot of good byes in recent years, and have done a lot of "going away". But one thing I have tried not to do is forget. Even when the good byes, and the goings away, were for the best, I have tried to keep that flame of memory alive -- for good or bad.

Our past is what makes us -- it is what shapes us, creates us into the people we are today, in the present. As the saying goes, if we forget our past, we are doomed to repeat it.

Yet it is not a fear of repeating my past that makes me so eager to not forget, it is a knowledge that thoroughly understanding my past will help me create not just a better present, but a better person, and a better future. It is a knowledge that the people in my past -- even if it is absolutely better that they are no longer in my present -- helped me create a bettter present, a better person, and a better future.

The great Greek philosopher Socrates said "The unexamined life is not worth living."

If you think about it, that is about as close to "never" as one can get -- and one should get. But this is one "never" that I fully embrace. Let's face it, Socrates does not allow an "out" on that statement. He does not say an unexamined life is not as fun, nor even not as deep or profound. He doesn't say one will have less satisfaction or meaning if one doesn't examine their life. No. He says point blank that such a life is Not. Worth. Living. Period. 

In other words, never -- ever! -- live an unexamined life. Never.

It is a saying I have always loved, and have tried my best to follow....perhaps too much! As I will be the first to admit that I often over-examine -- overthink -- well, everything. My brother once told me that I am not happy unless I have something to regret.

Sadly, he was -- perhaps is -- right. I over-examine such that I often "manufacture" regrets. It is probably why a friend (rightly) criticized me recently by saying that I try too hard, specifically with people. Yet, as stubborn and hard-headed as I may be, I do actually learn.
Ummm, ahem! No laughter from the peanut gallery please! Sheez. 
So I have learned that regrets are time wasted. As Charlotte Bronte noted in Jane Eyre, "Remorse is the poison of life."

Even more poetic, was Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley, famous for Frankenstein, who wrote in her penultimate novel, Lodore:
Men become cannibals of their own hearts; remorse, regret, and restless impatience usurp the place of more wholesome feeling: every thing seems better than that which is. 
What does all this mean?

It means do not let regret and remorse usurp better feelings and a better use of your time. It means -- to come full circle -- do not let good byes, or goings away, become regrets. Do not let good byes mean "forgetting". Let them mean knowledge, understanding -- examination.

Make your life -- your whole life: future, present, and past -- be worth living.


  1. This quote is plastered all over the internet, and it really is beautiful, so I hate to point out that it's not actually in Peter Pan. Nor did J.M. Barrie write it. Everyone attributes it to Peter, but I just read the entire book myself looking for it. And then I did some research
    Sorry :(

  2. If you can find where in Barrie's works this shows up, I will be eternally grateful