“Move on” is the 11th commandment of our runaway world and its maddening pace. Perfectly functional cellphones are replaced as soon as advertisements for new models make their appearance. People let go of well-paying and stable employment to move on someplace else, preferably abroad no matter the uncertainty. After graduating from one of the institutions in the great city, no matter that these may be nondescript, one hardly ever entertains the prospect of returning to the barangay or sitio of one’s birth because…one must move on! Associations, movements and groups hardly have stable memberships because it does not speak too well of one to “stay on” for too long. There is an obsession with what has heretofore been tried, not necessarily because of an eager mind or an intrepid spirit, but because one is “fed up” with what has been and must tirelessly try out what is new. Substance addiction, quite sadly, is born of this same excitement about new experiences that ironically turns into quicksand from which there is hardly any moving on.
It is sadder yet when this kind of restlessness afflicts human relations. It is part of human development to move out of the nest but, unlike birds—as far as we can tell—that nurture no fondness for the nests that cradled them as hatchlings—there used to be, in us, a fondness for “home” that made “going home” always something to look forward to, a special event, a return not only to a place, but to one of the tenderest corners of the heart! One could really never “move on” from the home. It was the same with relations: Infidelity brought one low in the esteem of others, and abandoning one’s family was hardly ever a pardonable offense. Friendships were treasured and while new friends could always be made, folk wisdom was expressed in the rhyme: “Make new friends, but keep the old/One is silver, the other, gold.”
Sentiment was definitely at work—but who ever said that there is something amiss with that? In some cultures, the bereaved put stones on the graves of their loved ones “so that the sentiments may stay as firm as rock and not be blown off with the wind.” It is one thing to be “affected,” to be “emotional,” and quite another to engage perversely in a cult of the emotions. To cry in anguish when someone we love leaves us—that is part of what it is to be human. To trigger emotions so that one may take delight in their changing hues, that is perverse. But what has gone wrong is that in trying to avoid the latter, we have also smothered our capacity for the former.
No, there are some things from which we must not move on. While futurity is the mark of the human spirit, rootedness is as much a distinctive trait of being human. Plants have roots, but only human persons root themselves by a thoughtful, sentimental appropriation and recovery of the past. When a pet dog dies, do not go shopping for a new puppy. One must grieve the death of a loved pet and not, in shallowness, distract oneself by “replacing” what really cannot be replaced. When one has just buried a loved one, it is the most thoughtless thing to purchase a ticket for a world tour in the hope of getting rid of the pal of gloom. This is not relishing the grief; it is grieving as one treasures the memories of a beautiful past. One should never delude oneself into believing that a friend lost can be replaced by others. Functions can be performed by others with the same competence, but friends cannot be replaced. One cannot and should not move on—away from genuine friendships.
It is a runaway world we are in, and the speed is increasing dizzyingly. “Stop the world, I want to get off”—that was popular decades ago, but it voices an existential ennui that comes with a lack of rootedness. We can in fact apply the brakes. We can slow things down by holding on to things that we treasure, by keeping the loves that make our lives fuller and that bring fullness to others’ lives, by treasuring the memories of those who leave us—staying by their graves, or holding on to what they leave behind, resisting the temptation to “move on” to the next exhilarating experience and preferring to savor the depth of what can remain amid the flux.
Now we understand why Aristotle and the Scholastic philosophers thought of eternity in terms of the immutable. They were not dim witted after all. They had an insight into what makes of persons who matter to us, or relations that make us, always things of beauty, “everlasting, ever ancient, ever new”!