What, if anything, was left unfinished in the past? Are there chapters left without closure? Every person is a walking story, a perspective of how life is interpreted. Yet time continues despite unconcluded seasons.
The waters are often uncharted, and the undercurrents, though more subtle, are even more concerning than the winds and waves on the surface.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
My own experience leads to consider past moments, episodes and seasons. While certainly some were not so good, others really genuinely wonderful. In either case, they must find their conclusions, their chapter closings, and narrative shifts. If they do not, our lives begin orienting towards guarded positions for the possible potentials of a some point returning to that place and finalizing that chapter. But our life events never remain in isolation as they may in our minds. Events and chapters that are felt to be unconcluded have nevertheless experienced the same shifting effects of time as the people involved in them have. Some events remain unresolved only in our hearts and minds, and others are left deep in the recesses of a distanced relationship. The usual response is the fill the void with new experiences, new friends, new work in a new chapter spliced into one’s life story. But sometimes the story requires a chapter a finish before the new chapter can begin.
I recently discovered “Lion” on Netflix. Categorized in the drama section, I figured it would have a more nostalgic feel to it. Some touching story of life developments in association with the world around the character. While the beginning was a little slow, I was progressively captivated into a very warm familiarity from my own life. But this story was as much sad as it was happy. The main character “Saroo” was separated from his brother at a train station when he got on a train to stay warm waiting for his brother. The next series of events were enough to conceivably pull a mother’s heart from her chest. The boy searched and ran; lost, confused, and desperate, as any child would.
It is a story as old as time. A child, belonging to a loving family, is by way of logistical complications, separated from the group. The vast distanced made possible by modern transportation innovations created a chasm in one of society’s deepest relational bedrocks. Short-term and long-term aspirations, memories, and even relationships can be confused or even forgotten. It has been said we are a habitual species. I take that to mean people are resistant to change. Usually, this is a negative thing, and is often the halt in technological, and social progress. But in this case, relational restoration was not easy to let go of, even though many children (and their distraught parents) experience. In an attempt to continue on in the aftermath, cultivating the world’s advice to “move on”, a person is expected to simply expected to forget. “That old life is gone”, some might say, “but you have a whole new life ahead of you”. This is becoming, if not a physical reality in our increasingly more complicated lives, at least a psychological one.
In the film, Saroo is shuffled through a couple different places, before he finally ends up being adopted into a whole different world by people who (as would be expressed later through tears) had a vision for adopting a foreign child. At this point, the story takes that ever-so-common shift in time to reveal the fully-grown adult version of Saroo. He is confident, intelligent, and fully accustomed to his new ethnic culture. But one thing still nags at him, and even pulls him into a crisis of identity. He quits his job, leaves his amazing wife, and moves out of the house in order to address the tormenting questions of his past. “What if they are still looking for me” Saroo asks in response to his wife’s confused probing. This is the crisis element of the narrative, and is often the place where no solid, or satisfying answers can be given.
Individuals may not always have family members looking for them years later half a world away; but they may have relationships that left them with scars that healed wrong. The only way for corrective psychological surgery in such cases to take place is to reenter the situation as it was last left. Rarely, if ever though, is the situation found undisturbed. These kinds of brief glimpses of closure are often worse than sustained neglect, because it defers hope further. The conclusion than, is different for every person in every chapter or episode left unfinished. Our subconscious reaction to chapters of the past left unfinished can lead to symptoms in the present. Sometimes individuals take up habits to help them cope with these neglected, or even forgotten pieces of their lives. Sometimes the situation isn’t even directly resolvable – but an attempt to try can always be made. Much resolution can come from merely discovering that nothing more can be done.
At the end the film, Saroo was able to locate his home village, and travel and visit his birth mother. It was a glorious moment of reconciliation. It ultimately didn’t change his life – and his mother recognized that, but it gave peace of mind not only to Saroo’s mother, but to Saroo himself. In many way’s, the film appears to have presented the negative side of lost chapters lost in our lives. I would propose that beneficial chapters are also waiting to be finished. Sometimes a book can be sent and accepted by a publisher with a chapter cut short, just as people can get by without concluding a season. But if a season can offer enrichment beyond where we are at right now, I would suggest it is worth pushing for.