So over dinner this evening, my brother brought up his highly probable emigration to Australia later this year. For the last several weeks, it’s jostled with sports and work as his topic of choice at the dining table.
As someone who’s been an emigrant herself, I can understand my brother’s excitement. Few things represent fresher starts than a new country of residence. It’s a function of our physicality that the rhythms of our lives conform so closely to geography. Change where you live drastically enough, and it will change who you are.
As much as I understand my brother’s enthusiasm, however, it’s hard for me to feel the same euphoria. Over the years, I’ve gotten more and more attached to my parents and my siblings, and the interconnectedness of our current world aside, nothing quite beats the proximity of flesh.
It’s very hard to put this sensibility into words. Our linguistic nature has us believe that communication alone forms the substance of our relationships: that for as long as we convey something to another—that for as long as we traverse the distances between our souls on the wings of words—then we have all that’s essential for our connections to flourish.
Without denying the indispensability of communication, I’d like to insist that the most intimate of our relationships thrive from sheer proximity. To see someone every day, or at least every week, to have the regularity of exposure annul the need for urgent exchanges of information (“how are you?” “what are you up to these days?” “how long has it been???”), to be able to subsist on banalities because such meagerness is all that’s required—all of that contributes (and immensely too) to making the bonds between us endure. And that’s why we fool ourselves when we believe that all it takes is the daily chat, the weekly call, the monthly letter, the annual visit. Such commitments can preserve a relationship—if fossils can be considered as a form of preservation.
In the end, what all this basically means is that I hate the thought of my brother leaving. It’s part of love to wish another’s happiness, even if their wishes don’t necessarily coincide with yours.