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The Weight of Waiting

“Openness itself would be that for which we could do nothing but wait” (Heidegger).

The ‘whiskey priest’ wrote:

You got it right when you intimated that that which eventually shows itself cannot be willed. In the same breath neither can one determine the "when." Waiting serves to bring about the clearing, the opening within that which chooses to show itself self manifests as such. Waiting brings about being-gathered-towards that which ultimately shows itself of its own accord.

Well said, as always. What he unravels from the simple act of waiting in the clearing is the element or horizon of time. The ‘when’ of that which may show itself shows itself can clearly neither be anticipated and expected nor could it be calculated. And this leads to the ‘inefficiency’ (where to be efficient is to “manage one’s time”) and ‘ignorance’ of waiting (where to know when that which may show itself shall show itself is to already be certain of its arrival, i.e., that it is only “a matter of time”—optimism—or “killing / passing away the time”—boredom.

Waiting can then be taken as a passive activity in that it paradoxically amounts to not doing anything. When one waits for the train to arrive, one really does nothing. Notice that for the passer-by, the man who waits for the train’s arrival is merely staring at the billboards because he “has nothing to do” (and in fact he does nothing) precisely because there is nothing one can do. The train’s arrival is not within one’s control. Also, when one waits for the arrival of the guest, no matter how much one busies himself with all the preparation, there will have to come a time wherein nothing can be done but to wait. Waiting is thus that ambiguous state where one is asked to bear doing nothing.

Finally, in the clearing where pure waiting reigns, every-thing disappears (e.g. consolation, orientation, knowledge and identity) for a person who could do nothing but wait. In real waiting every-thing fades away into a twilight of ignorance for, ultimately, it does not even know the ‘what’ which it waits for.

But along with the “danger” in the passivity of waiting, “grows the saving power,” its activity as well (Heidegger). When one truly waits, one does not merely “kill time” or “pass it away” as to transgress or or short-circuit bearing the weight of waiting; one wakefully waits – careful that one does not lazily doze off and miss that which may show itself in its showing (like samurai who reputedly sleep with one eye open). Watchfully, waiting opens the opening of the clearing and buttresses its force of inertia of wanting to be closed-off again, or in other words, the attempt of that which shows itself to instead hide (Heraclitus).

Waiting, as Heidegger said, is openness itself, the clearing itself. And every one knows the difficulty of remaining open and carrying the weight of waiting for the arrival of that which we have absolutely no idea (in the Greek sense of seeing and something that is perceived, i.e., the concept).

I ask, how can one really wait? Or how is it possible to begin with?

Perhaps Heidegger offers a clue to the paths one can take in answering such ‘absurd’ questions. And he pinpoints that an experience of “pure waiting” is already available to us – “the waiting game” in faith and love.

In a letter to Hannah Arendt (01 May 1925) he says:

Would love still be the great faith that rises in the soul if waiting and guarding were not part of the experience of love? Being allowed to wait for the beloved—that is what is most wonderful—for it is in that waiting that the beloved person is “present.”

And is not the beloved a privileged example of that for whom one is able to bring about one’s being-gathered-towards (resolve) for some-thing greater than our selves as what is Other than the Ego (the Same) shall always displace the security of the lonely I? Is not the unexpected Gift of the Other (never deserved but always “on time”) the arrival for which one is able to stand the weight of waiting, and in doing so, gathers and collects the shattered pieces of the Ego so that in the ‘end’—since waiting waits for an Other than itself—makes it “worth the wait?”

Thank you, whiskey priest. You summon us to wait and to think.


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