23 January 2010

Leaving On a Jet Plane

What is striking about the opening line of the chorus of John Denver’s song is its directness. “I’m leaving on a jet plane.” In an interesting way, the rest of the chorus is superfluous. Leaving as opposed to going, leaving as opposed to traveling. Not on an airplane, that possesses some hint of domesticity, but a jet plane that suggests speed and irretrievable distance. I do not think there is in these lines any hope of return.

And indeed, the second line completes the first: “Don’t know if I’ll be back again.” And this statement explains the leaving and the jet plane. This is a permanent rupture, even an abrupt departure, but done not with acrimony nor from argument, but out of some inner necessity that defines the one who leaves.

But the plaintiveness of the sentiment, “Oh, babe, I hate to go,” tears at my heart. Because the heart is remarkably where these things do hurt, and though I might be interested scientifically why this might be, I am certain nonetheless that phenomenologically this is what I will call the pain’s location. Regret and inevitability, and the latter not cosmic, but quite personal. The leaving must occur. “I hate to wake you up to say goodbye,” and so there is finally, no goodbye, just the leaving.

I always find leaving traumatic, though entertain with delight the anticipation of leaving. Perhaps it is that I consider traveling a sort of disappearance, and the more miles I place between me and home the more disappeared I feel. I wonder if this applies the other way around: when I remain at home and someone else travels out?


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