A Life I’m Doomed To Lead

April 9, 2009

Journal 36; April 8, 2009
We spend our time in various ways. Most of us aren’t even aware of its passing unless we are cursed with a dreaded word in our brain: waiting. Waiting, for most, is the ultimate dalliance, a disease on the face of time. It brings out the worst in people, pulls on their patience and their minds, forces them to stay without action, to think without purpose except passing time. In a life filled with waiting, we are all of us slaves to one common thought: things will be this way until they are over, though I don’t know when that will be.
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett is an absurdist play, and I find myself asking what is absurd about the ideas present in the play. Two men, Estragon (Nathan Lane) and Vladimir (Bill Irwin) wait on a mysterious Godot, a man who never appears but weighs on their mind as they continually beat their heads against the frustration that comes with staying in a desolate landscape with no purpose. In their waiting they meet Pozzo (John Goodman) and Lucky (John Glover), two other men seemingly trapped in this world where every day repeats itself, where men wait for things that do not happen, will not ever happen.
The play often rolls between comedy and tragedy with a distinct transition; Vladimir is the waning philosophical type who often relies on his brain to occupy the time, while Estragon would much prefer to do things, retaining his somewhat dark sense of humor in an effort to retain sanity. With changes in time of day we see the mood shift to a literally “darker” mode, and Vladimir often gives into his hopeless thoughts about each day being exactly the same with the setting of the sun, and Estragon’s often comical commentary shifts to a wish to kill himself, to hang himself from the naked tree.
Pozzo appears twice, though in two different versions of himself. His first appearance is unnerving; he holds a slave by a rope, demanding of the elderly Lucky everything from continually holding all the luggage to performing tricks on command. The tyrannical nature of Pozzo garnered laughter from the crowd, but as I sat and looked at the forlorn Lucky I was anything but in hysterics. I wondered if it was I or the rest of the audience who was confused with the situation. I did feel as though Lucky got to have his say once he was ordered to “think,” whereupon he recited a diatribe of a monologue of utter nonsense, but for the first time he was free to do whatever he wished until he fell in complete exhaustion. With Pozzo’s second appearance he is helpless in a completely different way; he is blind, and cannot get up off the ground without assistance. Though this too is funny there is that same bittersweet tone to it also—we are glad Pozzo is now blind because he was so cruel before, but if this is indeed a different Pozzo than the day before what does that make us?
The only man who stays the same from day to day seems to be Vladimir. Estragon leaves his too-small shoes at the point on the first day and returns the second day saying that the shoes are too big, as if it were two different people, two different Estragons, one with big feet and one with little feet. Everyone seems relatively content to live the same days over and over again, save Vladimir who must live them all and remember them all. Estragon knows that time is passing and wishes to pass it in new and interesting ways, but it is a desire only for entertainment and not any sort of deeper self-actualization. With all the days bleeding into each other it is understandable that Vladimir worries about the connection between life and death, the “gravedigger with the forceps” who is present at our birth and death because in fact they are the same day, just repeated several hundred times.
There is a commentary on friendship here, but I must have missed it because I was too worried about the passing time. I think in this way I am more like Vladimir, given to melancholy soliloquies with constant thought of the past, present, and future. It might just be perspective that the waiting is unbearable; the two at points seem to be having fun. Sometimes I think I might have to see this again to understand it, at other times I think that I have gotten only a portion of the real message.
I keep waiting for something or somebody to explain it to me.



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