The 49 Sophismata of Richard Kilvington was a medieval document which attempted to more precisely describe the perception of motion and being. While I was studying this document in a philosophy class of 4 students many years ago, I was profoundly bored. However, I remember it and the professor so clearly. What does it mean for an object to be in the process of moving - is it in a continuing state, or a completed state?
You can see why this might be pretty tiresome. I got one thing out of this: in a job, when you're going, you're gone. That is, once you are in the process of leaving, many people consider you to have already left. You are no longer relevant in the same way you were before. And that is the state in which I find myself. I will be leaving my position at the end of June. Not catastrophic. Not unusual. I have time to find another position. Yet it has been very difficult for me to accept this "change of state." In reality, I continue to perform my job as I have always done - with energy, passion and professionalism - but something is now missing, and I have tried to find out what it is that has now changed.
Ownership. It is the difference between a contract worker and one on salary. The difference between a part-time cantor and full-time one. The difference between someone who has a stake in the long-time success of an organization and a community, and one who is simply filling the need for today. Once you have been told, or you have decided, that you will be leaving, it is no longer your congregation. For a short time, you might have believed that your fate was tied to the fate of the community. Now, that belief is gone.
There is a strong connection between my trivial situation of leaving Las Vegas, and the profound story of the exodus which we are currently reading in the Torah this week (parashiyyot Vaera, Bo, and Beshalach). What would it feel like to be an Israelite in Egypt knowing that soon, soon you would be leaving. You never thought of leaving before. For hundreds of years this was your home. You might have disliked your life, but you owned it. Now, as leaving becomes real, you are no longer part of this place. Still there, yet your relationship to it has changed.
We all go through this. It is a human condition - perhaps a condition of being - that change implies a loss. When we change our place, we must recognize a different relationship with our past. Even thinking of the place from which we leave as a "past" requires a change. The story of the exodus is the story of every person, leaving where you were and redefining where you are.
Richard Kilvington would have said, when you're going, you're gone.