By Olivia Taylor
We are led to believe that everything that starts eventually has to end. Last year as a part of my compulsory ‘Thinking as a Critic’ English module we briefly discussed teleology, specifically looking at its relation to literature. In a philosophical sense, teleology essentially describes the purpose of something by its finality rather than how it came to be, and so when this theory is applied to literature, often it becomes apparent that continuity cannot always be as rewarding as closure may be. The state of closure brings about a sense of completeness, it yields satisfaction. When it got to the point of writing our final assignment for this particular module, I was drawn back to our previous studies of closure with a question titled, ‘For what reason, if any, is closure significant for literature?’. There was a lot to unpack, I discussed the satisfaction of the conventional romance novel, the ambiguity of modernist playwriting and different poetic intentions. But when looking back at this piece of work, what I found most interesting is my constant repetition of one key point. That our desire to reach a definitive ending in literature often reflects on our own desire for closure, because why would we be searching for such a thing without our own reasons?
The question is though, why are we constantly searching for closure? Whether it’s in a relationship, when faced with grief, or just after any type of unexpected event, closure becomes the one sought goal. In fact, it paints itself out to be the ending of an ending. We are all guilty of thinking closure, in whatever form it may take, will solve the issue at hand. Whilst for some it may be achievable, for many it can be a lost cause. Closure in literature may be satisfying, but how can we make it as satisfying in our own lives?
It is all about taking things for granted. Not in a bad way, it is simply because we make an assumption that we will experience these things a thousand times more. We grieve because we did not imagine a time when they would not be there. After a relationship, we want one more conversation with that someone because we did not think there would be a time when there would be no more words left to say. The problem here with closure is that we tend to get caught up in what we think we want rather than considering the reality of what really needs to happen. Take the end of a relationship for example. We always seem to think that one more conversation will solve it all, maybe not the relationship itself, but there seems to be a connection between the last conversation and the closure we think we want. But here’s the thing, they won’t say what you want them to say; the conversation you had so carefully planned out in your head won’t actually go to plan and honestly, it’s rare that it ever will. It will take time and you won’t like it, but do not waste any more time looking for answers or conversations you will not find. So then what is the point? Why have we become so obsessed with the idea of closure when it never turns out the way we want?
I am not the one to be giving any advice on how to find closure, I think plenty of people I know will agree I lack any credibility in this area. Like many, when I go to find closure I complicate the issue even further, entangling myself in the realm of ‘what ifs’. It is a dangerous game you will always find yourself playing. Whilst I may only be young, if there is one thing about closure I have recognised, it is that the ‘what ifs’ never get old. Not only do I see it in myself after only a few years of dealing with it but I see everyone around me has to deal with it too. It is that feeling of suddenly being stuck between wanting to wait for someone but equally wanting to forget them. We all come up with these scenarios in our heads and it evidently drives us mad. The truth is, all these scenarios are simply an extension of the same thing. We know it all really, these are just extensions of thinking we want someone but in reality they don’t want us back. Often when we are compelled to ‘let go’ of something we tend to cling on to it tighter, becoming more attached. It’s like being told not to think of something, that ‘thing’ will then be the foremost thought on your mind.
Unfortunately, the only advice I can offer on closure is that surely it proves how lucky we are to experience these ‘things’ at least once. Perhaps once is enough, why would we want to keep going through it all again and again? Sometimes things are only nice because they are temporary and that is exactly why we should be grateful. Knowing when closure is due is simply a sign that that particular period of time is over and therefore we should learn to appreciate it for what it was. A moment of temporality, because when we think about it, nothing will ever be infinite. I was speaking to a friend of mine recently about how she has dealt with closure in the past, and she made a point that stuck with me. She said that what she has learnt from closure is that is helped her realise that the only person she really needs to focus on is herself, why should we be worrying so much about fixing ‘unfixable’ things with people when they are only a small part of our own lives who will come and go so quickly? These people are simply a purpose for such a small fraction of our own existence; yes, they may have purpose for a bit, but not forever. It is just the end of a chapter, the sense of longing won’t last forever, you will turn over a new page and a new chapter, a new beginning will appear.
Perhaps I have diverged from the discussion of literature, but regardless of where closure is applicable, I think it is as significant as any opening can be. It all comes down to intention and interpretation. Although, whilst everything must come to an end, often the end is what we least expect. Think of it like this. The thing that makes anything nice is not its ending, but the fact that it has an ending.