Being the avid Disney nerd I am, it no longer surprises me when, in movies, within the first half hour or so, someone important leaves or dies; some sort of goodbye takes place before the plot can advance any further. Which means that Marvel movies have majorly screwed with me, because NO ONE IMPORTANT EVER ACTUALLY DIES (and if anyone says Agent Coulsen, you clearly haven’t seen Agents of SHIELD…spoiler alert…), so it’s like, “Goodbye–NO WAIT WHAT OH MY GOSH YOU’RE ALIVE”. And in retrospect, there have been a fair amount of movies, Disney or otherwise, that do sort of the same thing (mostly Disney, because typically there’s some sort of magic or prophecy involved).
But there’s one Disney goodbye that still haunts me and tears at my heart: when Widow Tweed says goodbye to Todd in The Fox and The Hound.
Because not only is that goodbye accompanied with Tweed’s reminiscences and a tear-jerker of a harmonica-led song; it’s a devastatingly final goodbye. When she drives away from Todd, leaving him alone in the woods as she cries, and he just looks after her, confused, there’s no question in anyone’s mind: this is it, the last time they’ll ever see one another. There is no sudden return to the way things were; the film ends with Todd looking down on his old home from his new home in the woods.
Now there are two quotes about goodbyes that I have wrestled with: that sickeningly sweet “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” dealio, and a quote by C.S. Lewis that says, essentially, “Christians never say goodbye”. The first is pretty easy, in my mind, to question. It’s all well and good to say that we ought to rejoice in the good times that have been had, and there is no doubt that I look back with a (bittersweet) smile on the friends to whom I have said goodbye. And yet, when you stand before the ones you love, looking them in the eye and knowing that you may never see them again, feeling like your heart is being ripped from your chest, even if you can manage a smile, how can you not (at least internally) shed tears? How can you ignore that you are about to lose a person who has been precious to you? What greatness is there in denying to yourself that you will miss their laugh, their smile, the way they used to talk and walk, and just their very presence?
The second quote is less troubling, but still makes me uneasy. Essentially, the quote is recognizing the intimate bond we share as members of the Body of Christ, which keeps us always united no matter where we are, and is the source of our eternal union in Heaven. Still, even as we Catholics say to each other, “I’ll see you in the Eucharist”, even as our eyes of faith see the one to whom we have said goodbye in Christ’s Mystical body, and even as our hope tells us that we will see our loved ones in Heaven someday, isn’t there an ache? Can you deny that there is a hole in your heart where the other used to be?
Brethren, for anyone who has said goodbye and known that it was a truly final farewell, life afterwards is the life of an amputee. When we give another person a room in our hearts, we can’t help but feel the cold drafts through the open door and the cobwebs in the corners when they have gone. We have to go on living, knowing that we will never be the same.
That’s just it, though, I guess…we will never be the same. That is the glorious thing about our friendships and our familial bonds. The moment they are forged, we are changed. Love is a strange thing; once it enters your heart, you will never know a deeper ache, and yet every heart-wrenching moment is pure bliss, because you get to look into the eyes of the one you love. So when that terrible, inevitable moment comes when you have to say goodbye, and every part of your being is moaning for just another moment more with the beloved, we shouldn’t hide behind melancholy reminiscence or joyful hope, no matter how noble either might prove to be later. No.
When your universe suddenly seems as if its very light is about to be sucked away, when the air you breathe is about to be torn from your lungs, put every ounce of love you can into that last embrace, the final moment in which the one who brought music to your life pulls you close to them, letting your heart bleed out in one final, painful, blissful rapture of a moment. Then let them slip away, like rain slipping through your fingertips, burning like acid, and smile, because the tears that are sure to come mean that you have been lucky enough, in the few years of your life on this strange and beautiful place called Earth, to have met another person who entered into your life and you into theirs so deeply that your parting is torturous.
Finally, if you can stand it yet, say a prayer that you may both have the strength to go on to love again, and begin to find solace in the love of God, the one and only lover about Whom you can truly say that you will never have to say goodbye.
So guys. Depending on what I learn in my classes on the Holy Spirit and the Nature of Love next semester, I might have found a topic for my thesis.
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deut. 30:6)
OK I promise it’s more than just this cringe-worthy biblical quote, just hear me out. And tell me what you think, I’d love to hear your insights/input.
The reason I started with this quote is because I think this idea of “circumcision of the heart” is a linking factor. “Circumcision of the heart” has to do with the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant in Christ. Under the Mosaic Covenant, and in fact all the way up to the New Covenant, the sign of being formally brought into the covenant was circumcision, representing the casting off of sin and one’s former way of life to live in God’s love, under His paternal care.
In the New Covenant in Christ, we are given rather a “circumcision of the heart”, an interior circumcision worked by grace in which the person is radically transformed, his sinfulness removed from him and dignity as child of God restored to him. This occurs sacramentally in Baptism first and subsequently through each Reconciliation.
The Holy Spirit is particularly involved in these acts of grace; it is He Who brings the graces, which were won by Christ on the cross, to each individual soul to unite them to Christ and present them to the Father. It is also He Who first “cuts to the heart”, so to speak, concerning man’s sinfulness and need for repentance, leading him to turn in metanoia (conversion of the heart) to God’s mercy. (See John 16:8)
How does beauty play into this?
If you have yet to have been truly touched by beauty, this will make no sense to you, and I question how you are able to function as a normal human being. If you have, continue on, fortunate soul.
Think of the last really beautiful moment in your life. It can be some big moment or change in your life, a moment of healing from a past wound, a particularly beautiful piece of music or art, a breathtaking moment spent in nature, or anything else similar. These moments touch us in the deepest parts of ourselves, and have a cutting sort of sweetness, a potency that feels something like pain to the heart and yet is deliciously sweet. It’s almost as if something cuts into us and strips away a veil, a veil that hung between our deepest, truest selves and the sweet something expressed in beauty that we all crave.
Coincidence? I think not.
Perhaps beauty is a way in which the Holy Spirit cuts to the heart of man, showing him both the splendor of something beyond him and humbling him as he recognizes his own incongruity, insufficiency, or brokenness. Perhaps beauty is one of the Holy Spirit’s instruments of “circumcision of the heart”, moving man to repentance and true transformative change in his life through grace given by God. Perhaps, in beauty, we see both our potential and our lacking, and we are given the courage, the incentive, which moves us to cast off what is imperfect in us. In the sacraments, the heart torn by recognition of sinfulness thanks to the Holy Spirit is healed and separated from that sinfulness by the Same Holy Spirit.
Quick stipulation: I realize that beauty isn’t the ONLY means used by the Holy Spirit to “cut to the heart”. There are moments of intense recognition which He grants when we self-reflect; I think that moments of beauty can be a starting point for these self-reflections. In fact, come to think of it, this self-reflection is where the true decision to commit and submit to the “circumcision of the heart” has to occur. I think another starting point can be moments of suffering, if approached in the right spirit and with right understanding of the mystery of suffering in light of the Paschal Mystery and the beautiful truth that is our understanding of suffering as potentially redemptive.
This is just based on classes and readings and formation so far; I have a while to go on this, obviously. Is there actually a connection here? Anything I’m missing? Did I say something heretical or inaccurate? What are your thoughts? What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? If two trains leave at the same time from the same point on the moon, one with rocket boosters and one with a standard engine, which one is carrying carrier pigeons?