September 15, 2021
Tom sent me an interview that discusses Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and what an apt play it is for COVID times. Here on day 551 of this interminable pandemic, most of the commentary and frustration about it is centered around just getting back to normal. While many of us wait for others to get vaccinated, wear a mask, self-isolate when ill, many just want to belligerently resume their lives and want us to march brazenly with them. This overbearing desire for normal fits with their faith in a beneficent god and the moral superiority of the Republican party, though either have yet to manifest themselves. And that’s just it: without the regular rhythm of the everyday, they have to contemplate the void before them, and it is wide and frightening.
“How do we fill our time in order to avoid sitting with ourselves and confronting our existence?” asks Vogel. He says Beckett’s work challenges us to live in a world without answers to the big questions—in a world of uncertainty, we “have to sit with the uneasiness of not having an answer”—which many just cannot do.
Is that what this is: a refusal to consider the absurdity and meaningless of the universe? To contemplate the possibility that we are not the center of the universe and are actually pretty insignificant in the scheme of things? Is this ultimately a failure of education to prepare citizens for this very circumstance, or is our capitalist culture of materialism and duty to the company finally showing its flaws to the true believers? Of course that cannot be the case, they yell and stamp, attacking those of us content to wait. Isn’t this what the Republican party has always been: the nostalgia for and the desire to capture a fantasy past of “the good ol’ days” that never were—or only were for a select few privileged people? And now were see these people not only refusing to wait, but willfully trying to pull us all back.
“What if instead of waiting, you act or think differently instead of trying to go back to the way things were?” asks Vogel. I agree. Many of us are, like those who are now refusing to do essential, difficult jobs for minimum wage. Like those who refuse to be marginalized and murdered for the color of their skin. Like those who refuse to be “host bodies” for misogynists. Like those who want to hold accountable the largest corporations for destroying the world for all of us—particularly for those who are poor and marginalized.
I so want some progressive victories, but it seems unlikely. Why is it so difficult for us to look forward rather than back? If we are “constantly looking for meaning [that] never comes,” shouldn’t we at least try to make life better for more people, rather than less?
I mused about something similar at the start of this thing while teaching Godot. Thanks, Tom.
- Pinsker, Joe (September 12, 2021). "'What If the Thing You're Waiting for Never Arrives?'". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2021-09-15.