The Romanian poet-philosopher Lucian Blaga, had a volume called “The great passage”, in which Philosophy meets poetry in very clever white verses. The idea was that life is a trip that we all take, and during this trip all sort of things are happening to us. Another critic-novelist, George Calinescu was saying in one of his articles that “life is a pendulum which swings between the two extremes, birth and death”. Proust looked at life from a different perspective, trying to find the little details which were lost, pushed away by big ones. He is spending a painstakingly amount of time trying to “study the time lost”.There is no wonder that today he does not have a big audience among the young generations living on steroids, and speed.
Right now though, I can't think on any other writer who defined the process of waiting, a process that every one of us is experiencing at one time or another, as eloquently as Samuel Becket in his play “Waiting for Godot”.
Although today, “Waiting for Godot”, is a classic people love, when it first opened in Paris in the forties, it flopped. The Parisian public, which is know of its tolerance for innovations in the art world, did not find the play acceptable, and the shows stopped only after five empty seats shows.
The play did not fail because it was bad, but its message encapsulated in a very tight code, not accessible to the fun-loving public of Paris.
The idea of the play is totally crazy for a cultivated person who grew up with classic art and savored even things like the Impressionism, although impressionism judged by the classic standards is another aberration.
The plot is illogical, it takes place on a side of the road. The characters my sound funny, but they are funny not because they are conducting a witty dialogue, the dialogue is not a real dialogue, judged by the classic standards. Actually the dialogue seems carried out by two lunatics just out of the asylum. If this is not bad enough, the four characters of the play are actually the same two who change personalities, one morphing into the other.
These two characters, or four personalities keep the audience on their toes for two hours and some, waiting on the side of the road for somebody who never shows up. Their concern is somebody they think will come one day, but they don't know how to recognize him, they don't even know if they really want him to show up in the end.
The mastery of the play consisted in the fact that it spends time analyzing, and defying the process of waiting.
Humans spend a lot of their lives waiting for something, however whatever they are waiting for is something very elusive, undefined which most of the time never arrives, or if it does, it is a disillusion because is not even remote to what they had in mind.
Beckett's wisdom though, was found by a class of people who would be the least expected to discover it, if judged by the conventional standards. They were the fringes of our society, they were rejects, sentenced to live in a different world behind bars, some of them with no hope, or very lengthy wait for ever returning among us. And when they returned, they almost all the time found themselves lost never being able to reintegrate in the society. They were time machine travelers brought back into modern time, suddenly, facing challenges never dreamed of before they went in.
The inmates at St Quentin penitentiary were any of the four personalities waiting for Godot to show up, on the side of the road.
I was fifty some when I really understood the play. I read it several times before, but I never really got too much out of it, although I am always looking for new forms of expression and avant-garde is one of my preferences.
I don't really know what triggered my desire to wait for Godot, but around seventeen years of age, I decided that I had enough of totalitarianism and I had to leave my birth country. Leaving turned into my Godot. I wanted to live in a free world, in which I could think freely and pursue my aspirations of dreaming and not being afraid I could talk in my sleep and get arrested for expressing my real thoughts. I wanted to go to school to study something that I really loved, and I wanted to be responsible for my successes or my failures, whatever my share was. I wanted to buy any book I want, not have others decided what was good for me.
After a few years of waiting, and all the miseries related to the waiting, when we received the exist visa I was so tired and I got so engrossed in the fight to defeat the system, that the news did not hit me at first. The mail ran into me in the street, while I was talking to a friend. He said: “I am sure you are waiting for this, and I did not want to let it in the mail box, but your wife did not answer the door”, handing me a post card. I was so into the conversation, that I thanked him, I glanced at the post card and put it in my pocket not really realizing what it was. I even forgot about it, until I made it home. When my wife and I read it, we could not even enjoy the moment. All we could do was break up in tears while holding each other.
Fast forward a few years, I was in school and waiting to graduate, to get a better job and to start some of the things I dreamed would happen in my new country.
Well, when I finally graduated, I was passed the early age when corporations are willing to hire people to turn them into “success weapons”, so in the end, I had to start my own business, hoping to reach my goals.
The problem was that no one stopped me from dreaming, however I got involved in making a living, and there was no time for dreaming.
Fast forward a few years, again. All of a sudden I found myself behind bars, where I had the time to think a lot about Beckett and his Godot. I did not stay away for a very long, or in very bad conditions. There were better than St. Quentin, but the bars at the windows, are bars at the windows.
Having conversations with some of the inmates, I realized that we were Vladimir and Estragon waiting for Godot on the side of the road. Ours though was sure to come, and we all knew it: the release day. However we did not know the impact of its arrival. Some of the inmates went through the same process before, so they were not as anxious about their release. They knew what it meant to get out, and some were even afraid of that time. At least in jail they had three meals a day, they could watch television, they could read and go trough the petty daily tasks. It was something sure with no variation.
Today, I am not waiting for anything. I am not anxious about Godot. I don't know even if I am hoping to see him one day. What could he bring me that I did not experienced already?
Vladimir and Estragon were two happy bums. They got used to waiting on the side of the road, and enjoying every moment of it. If Godot would come or not, was not important any longer, however it was a way of life, indifferent to the outcome. They were still waiting, but they were not really sure that Godot was their hope, they were waiting, because after all, at birth we wait for the time when we are going to die, whether we want it or not, whether we are thinking about it or not...