Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a novel I’ve started reading, gifted to me by my workplace’s book club. I’m 35 pages in and so far I can say with almost certainty that I’m not going to enjoy it. Now, that’s not a criticism, far from it. It’s a masterpiece and is written with such precision, I can only aspire to be able to craft such atmosphere and feeling in a reader. The feeling from the first page evoked in the reader can only be described as vemod. I’ve spoken about that before, probably horrendously misspelt as vermod not vemod. To recap: vemod is a Scandinavian word that describes a poignant and lingering sad nostalgia.
The book about loss and times gone by – so far at least – put me in a reflective mood. I left my school at 18, being there from age 11 and stuck to the same friendship group for the entirety of that period. Yet, barely five years on, I’ve lost contact with every one of them. I look back now and think why that was and how I ended up where I am now, with the friends I do have either hundreds of miles away or entirely online. What a lonely feeling it is to realize ones own singularity. All that history, all of those stories gone like, to quote the 11th Doctor, “breath on a mirror“.
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like… tears in rain.” – Roy Batty, Blade Runner
Even the name of the book, Never Let Me Go, is so human. It’s a clinging on to the dreams and loves of the past as they slip from our fingers into the mists of eternity. All of us, one day become a few faded lines of text on a stone tablet in a field of stone tables and bones. It’s a tearful smile of an existence, all of us existing between each tear. It’s beautiful like a Bob Ross painting and as soothing as his voice as we are lulled into a casual sleep.
The thing I always noticed about Bob Ross’ paintings was that they always felt lonely to me. Like we, as the observers of his landscapes were alone in this wonderous vista, Adams and Eves, entirely alone. Perhaps that’s the unspoken beauty of the art and the art of life. In the end, we all have to let go – of the past, of our loves, of ourselves. We cling on as long as we can but in the end, not even the wind blows forever. And when we do leave, we leave by ourselves.
“Hence a gusty wind cannot last all morning, and a sudden downpour cannot last all day. Who is it that produces these? Heaven and earth. If even heaven and earth cannot go on forever, much less can man. That is why one follows the way.” – Tao Te Ching XXVII
So now, in knowing that all things are in a state of fading into eternity, why do we forego the moment? Why do we fret about the others that we have no control over rather than living in pure contentment with the moment that we exist in? Life is a series of moments so love each one and embrace each one. With each thing, ask of yourself, am I to regret this? Am I making the best purpose of my time? From being actively passive with some meditation or a well deserved nap to climbing to the tops of Kilimanjaro for a little perspective that you cannot find in the mirror, find purpose in it all. Ask yourself what benefits you and the greater good. Ask yourself what do you cherish?
Reflect on your life perhaps and see what you should let go, despite the things protest. What are you holding on to that hurts you and pricks at your soul? Which habit? Which condition? Which person? If we can’t hold on forever to our own flesh, we can’t hold on forever for someone else. What feeling are you holding on to? What detrimental responsibility long overdue to be let go of? Remember in these cases the tale of the scorpion and the frog. The scorpion rode on the frog’s back across the river with the promise that it would not sting, alas it did. When the frog asked why kill them both as they were drowning, the scorpion asked why the frog would even ask. It was the insect’s nature to sting.
So, as I continue to read Never Let Me Go, I’m sure Kazuo Ishiguro will treat me to further bluer shades of melancholy and opportunity for reflection. I welcome it, and recommend it.