by Julia Buckley
I've posted here before about Waiting for Godot; last time I related it to the characters in Charlie Brown. (I think that Charles M. Schultz must have read that play).
Right now I am awaiting my agent’s thoughts on my manuscript revisions—a nervewracking time for any author—and I got to thinking once again about the notion of waiting itself.
There’s a reason that Samuel Beckett used the present participle in his title Waiting for Godot; waiting itself is an existential experience. No matter what one is waiting for—-a ride, a letter, a ringing bell—-one is always caught in the center between hope and despair. In addition, the wait is an entirely separate entity from what precedes it and whatever might end it. The wait, in many cases, is misery.
Don’t believe me? I’ll show you my youngest son in the month before Christmas. As he sees it, Christmas and its attendant joys are always, always too far away—until they are suddenly there and gone, which brings him brief happiness, then depression. This, then, is the human condition.
My students, when we read Godot, share their own painful experiences of waiting: waiting for the phone call from that special someone; waiting for Christmas break, spring break, graduation; waiting for a report card; waiting for age eighteen, then age twenty-one, then waiting to officially “feel adult.” (Good luck with that one).
George Santayana famously wrote, “There is no cure for birth or death save to enjoy the interval,” and I suppose the challenge is in fact to try to enjoy whatever wait we are currently enduring. The advantage of waiting is that one can lean toward hope, even embrace it, because in that temporary state we can own whatever future our imagination can conceive.
So here’s to waiting: not a misery, but a little moment of the eternal, in which everything is, and everything is not.
(photo: I snapped this shot at a Chicago el stop. If you've waited for enough el trains, you understand the whole philosophy of waiting and its relationship to the universe).