Suspension. Anticipation. Waiting.
Waiting is not my cup of tea.
Waiting is not even my cup of lemon juice-cayenne pepper-honey cleanse.
Picture here my Not-even-if-I-pinch-my-nose-will-I-enjoy-this look.
That’s how “unfun” waiting is, and how “not easy”.
Could that be why it keeps bumping me in the forehead? That I’ve been practicing so much waiting that it could become my very being if I let it? So what lessons do I need to learn?
Waiting is addressed by the Buddhist idea of Satori, Christianity’s “The Lord’s Prayer”, the Hebraic Kabbalah, the Muslim Islam, and let’s not forget page 417 of the The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Taught by various means, it seems to me that the truly wise and enlightened among us have transcended our limited sense of waiting, and reached an understanding of acceptance.
Rather than center on the waiting experiences of being paused, anticipatory, and disempowered I accept the nature of our
And did I mention that acceptance is being OK with all that? I mean… being really, okay. As in cool, okay. As in That’s cool. So, what’s on tap today? As in No prob. Surf’s Up.
Referring to our experience of a theater curtain drawing upwards or a riding a train slowly pulling into an illuminated station, T.S. Eliot offers us a set of intriguing metaphors for waiting in a section of his East Coker poem of The Four Quartets. By first using incidents that we might associate with relative warmth and safety and peaceful anticipation, Eliot woos us into recognizing that waiting can also include moments of the terror, like being conscious but incapacitated. Eliot quickly takes us through moments where we mindlessly and obligingly accept "not yet fully knowing” to advising that we ought never start bouncing in our seats like kids before Christmas; no, we can’t always get what we want and we don’t even know what to hope for. Just wait.
If this makes you feel ineffective, try replacing the verb of “wait” in his poem with the verb that defines your true passion or your heart’s calling. Maybe your joy comes from being a teacher, a researcher, a counselor, a politician, a parent, a writer, an engineer. Any of these verbs could take their turns. I myself could replace “Wait” with a verb that means “pursuing the reflection of beauty/love/awe of the universe through my handiwork of painting, pottery and parenting along with some poetry and baking, oh gardening and trail running too”.
I’ll have to see if some other language has a word for all that. I suppose I could just plug in “Paint” but that seems oversimplified. But Eliot himself just picked one verb: WAIT.
Wait Without Hope
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God.
As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away—
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;
Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing—
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
T. S. Eliot, Excerpt from the “East Coker” section of The Four Quartets