Yesterday I finally discarded my back issues of StAR. It wasn’t easy. For one thing, I had saved issues going back—I think the earliest was 2006—and believe me, in more ways than one, StAR is not a lightweight publication. I had thought about it for quite a while, but as it often happens, the actual deed was spontaneous. It was only afterwards that I felt I’d done something rather momentous.

Discarding all those back issues should not be seen as an intention to stop reading StAR. That won’t happen so long as I am able to read. People talk about downsizing when they age, sometimes selling their homes and moving to condos or retirement homes. For me, it’s a matter of culling. I’ve no intention of leaving my home, but for the sake of those who are kind enough to deal with my possessions after I’m gone, I’m trying to clean house a bit, as it were.

Fortunately, I’m not a hoarder. On the contrary, I go through my closet every year, and if an item has not been worn in a year, I know I don’t need it and it goes to charity. More significantly, I don’t attach value to things. Among my many (and much more serious) weaknesses, sentimentality is absent. I can be a bit wistful about this old postcard or that old photo, but not so much that I attach value to it. Whatever sad or happy memory it may evoke, it is a mere thing. The value, if any, is in the memory, not in the thing. I cherish the memory of my mother, not her photograph.

The one exception is books. I hoard books. Yes, I do. I don’t know why. But old issues of StAR and a considerable stack of other periodicals parted from me yesterday. And it made me think about “partings”. They didn’t “depart”; they parted. To depart implies leaving by one’s own volition: I departed Philadelphia on Tuesday, he packed his bags and departed, Mr. Jones departed the building when he resigned, etc. There is significance in that prefix, de. Sometimes, when someone dies, their death is referred to as a “departure.” No, it’s not—not unless they committed suicide. That use of the word is a euphemism for dying, but it leads to misconceptions about what actually happens—parting. A death is a parting, and that’s different.

To depart means to leave—decisively. It’s an action. Parting, on the other hand, is not an action; it’s simply what happens continuously, before we are born, after we die, and while we live. It neither starts nor stops because parting is time. It is the actual definition of time. Everyone and everything is constantly parting. Our breath, our cells, our thoughts, our loves, our lives, our world, the universe, every particle of reality around or within us—parts continuously, without ever stopping. There is no “carpe diem”; there is no “now”. There never has been, not in Time, which is the habitat of all our human cognition. And we form our views accordingly: dynamic (good) versus static (bad), progress (good) versus stagnation (bad), and life (good) versus death (bad). Not to live in constant revolution is not to live at all. It puts me in mind of an old Bobby Gentry song, “Crystal Bird,” which tells of a crystal bird who must remain in perpetual flight because its legs are broken. We are likewise broken.

And we long, silently, unspoken except obscurely in occasional poetry and music, for a cessation of the continuous motion, for peace, stillness, for a reality that is beyond this constant parting. We long for Eternity. We long for God. Our deepest unnamed desire is to rest in him, to dissolve our separateness from him like the Sacrament on our tongue, not to consume him but to be consumed by him, and never to part from him.