On the foolishness of waiting

I hate waiting, hate not so much the experience but the idea of waiting. The experience is tolerable, but the idea is exhausting. The idea of waiting is exhausting.

Even then, “The idea of waiting is exhausting” falls flat as an expression. Its inadequacy shows through. Better said: “The life that envelops itself in the idea of waiting is exhausting.” And there we have it.

When I wait, I posit the essential over and beyond me. Furthermore, I posit value in what is not within my ken. If I wait for you to kiss me, then I am positing value in something that may never come. So I wait for your approach, and I am disappointed.

Not always, of course, but often enough for disappointment to take its toll. And therein lies the problem: Waiting is such that it carries the idea of disappointment, like the taint of a cigarette, with it, within it wherever it goes.

The form of life wherein waiting figures prominently is also the form of life wherein wishing and then regretting play equally prominent parts. Yes, because waiting leads, not necessarily but certainly quite regularly, to wishing that things were otherwise than the way they are (or could be). The wish, in turn, is replaced by the regret, and the regret for this finally a regret for life, for my life, for being.

This may all sound terribly melodramatic as you’re waiting for the train. And you might reply that waiting does not always culminate in dissatisfaction, and you’d be right in saying so. And you might go further and imagine all the times you’ve waited and–the joy of surprise–your parents provided.

I think you jest, and I’m sure you’re confused. Have you ever wondered whether the question, “What can I do here and now? What is within my power?,” might change your way of thinking? I can meditate, and perhaps the train comes or perhaps it doesn’t. As the water heats up, I can clean up around me. Will my lover kiss me? Perhaps I can ask her with my eyes or with my lips. I can be active even while the world does its thing.

As opposed to waiting, the meditation. As opposed to wishing, the invitation. As opposed to regretting, the love of fate. As opposed to a life well-wasted, a life well-lived.

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One thought on “On the foolishness of waiting

  1. I’m sure you can hear on my blog a strong Stoical line. For a long time, I had loved Adorno’s (and Ernst Block’s) melancholic ideas about hope and redemption. More recently, though, I’ve worried about a common Stoic-Hegelian thought: namely, that waiting is a structurally unsustainable form of consciousness. Hegel calls it unhappy consciousness. But then I’m also fond of the virtue of patience evident, e.g., in the ars moriendi tradition.

    You might rightly wonder where this leaves me. Let me try out the following: Patience, let’s say, is an *active* virtue, active inasmuch as it is a form of askesis. When I practice the virtue of patience, I work on myself; it is an ongoing act of spiritual preparedness. In this sense, the one who is patient is not waiting for Meaning; rather, he is becoming the kind of person who is *worthy* of something good coming his way even if that good thing never comes his way. He is still beautiful, and it shows.

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