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On Staying and Waiting

For Erjoy

"Because legein (to let), which lets things lie together before us, concerns itself solely with the safety of that which lies before us in unconcealment, the gathering appropriate to such a laying is determined by safekeeping."

("Logos," Early Greek Thinking)

"They also serve those who stand and wait."


"I waited for you."

That was what Victor Navorski said to the lovely but impatient Amelia in the movie "The Terminal." And Victor knew what he was saying.

A victim of unusual circumstance, Victor Navorksi arrived at the JFK Airport in New York just when a coup d 'etat in his beloved Krakhozia transpired overnight. His passport and visa were instantly denied by the immigration and, without understanding much of what the Chief of Security said, he was asked to wait until Uncle Sam would take care of the crack in the wall the unassuming tourist fell into. As Dixon said, he was a "citizen of nowhere," and strict border protection insisted that such citizens could not step on American soil.

So he was made to wait and stay in the terminal where people come and go from Narita to Moscow, from Paris to Congo. What was only a stop for the frequent flier turned out to be home for the homeless Victor Navorski.

With no country and
with only a few English phrases such as "please," "thank you," and "keep the change" in his vocabulary, Victor Navorski was the stranger, the outsider in a terminal without an exit. With no American dollars and a suitcase for a closet, Victor Navorski had nothing. All he had was merely a can of peanuts for a promise, an unbeatable heart for a strength that couldn't whither, and sheer patience that could outlast time.

After all, he had waited so long to go to New York. What had he have to lose?


"I don't know what I am waiting for," Amelia answered.

Caught in a situation Victor Navorski, with his limited vocabulary, described as "crowded," Amelia had been waiting for seven years for her lover to leave his wife. Amelia, a first class flight attendant, was trapped in a waiting game where she can only see her lover when he so chooses to see her, or when he was not busy taking his wife out for dinner or watching the fireworks sparkle on a fourth of July. In other words, inspite of the twenty years she had spent living out of a suitcase and travelling from city to city, she also knew how to wait.

Even if that meant going into a twilight of not knowing anymore what she was waiting for, even if that meant that the time to stop waiting and the time to finally leave had passed before her very eyes.

And so why did Amelia wait?

We pick up their conversation where Amelia, through her lover, just gave Victor Navorski a one-day pass to finally step out to New York and fulfill his long-held promise to his dead father:
Victor: Your friend do this for me? Why he do this for me?
Amelia: He did it for me. I told you to stay away from me, Victor. But you didn't
understand. I think you were confused.
Victor: No I confused about everything. I'm not confused... not this. (Points to his heart)
Not this.
Amelia: I'm sorry. I'm running late.
Victor: Amelia. Why you go? Why you go?
Amelia: You know what Napoleon gave Josephine as a wedding present? It was a gold
locket. And on the inside, he made an inscription. "Destiny."
Victor: Destiny.
(Amelia leaves. Meets with her lover. He kisses Amelia.)
And so Amelia leaves Victor Navorski for a chance to wait some more and fulfill what she saw was her fate, what was her destiny. The night before, Victor Navorksi also gave Amelia something. He built what Napoleon gave Josephine when the Great Ruler went to Bovaria.

With his bare hands, he built her one of a thousand fountains.


"Everybody waits," said Victor.

From the Chief of Security waiting for his turn to be the top boss of the airport to Enrique who has been waiting for the chance to be noticed by the beautiful customs inspector; from the Indian janitor who cannot go home to India because of a long-forgotten crime and to Victor Navorski's father who waited for so long for the fifty-one jazz artists in America to send their signatures so that he can place them in his can of peanuts.

Everyone waits yet waiting is not merely outlasting time and bearing its weight; waiting is something other, something more than such a patient and passive letting the time go by. Waiting awaits that which will or can come, yet it also is watchful to what may never arrive or never show itself. It is not ignorant or naive; it knows -- somehow -- what will never be known or seen in the clarity of the clearing that waiting brings about.

Waiting knows the darkness, too. It hides in the outer rim where the shadows lie. It rests, it sleeps and finds a way to make ends meet while it still has the eye for what may pass, it still knows the gentle sound of a falling leaf or the quick shifting of a beast's paw on the ground.

Waiting can be learned, and once learned, it can never be forgotten. The clearing is not a place where we can see that which may show itself in its showing and in the way of its showing. The clearing is a clearing from within. And once cleared and clear, anything and everything that arrives and finds its way to be exposed under that unbearable inner light will always be envisaged, seen and held before one's gentle safekeeping.

Waiting comes and goes, but it stays in its coming and going. Just like the terminal which stays and remains in the coming and going of planes and the arrival and departure of passengers.

To stop waiting and start staying: this is the difference as such and the one thing necessary. Victor Navorsky waited, but more importantly, he stayed. Amelia knew she couldn't stay anymore and that is why she left and waited some more.

Yet he who knows when it is time to wait and when it is time to stay, like Victor Navorsky, knows when it is time to let go (Abegescheidenheit) and when it is time to let things be (Gelassenheit), respectively.


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