This week, we have a piece by Anna Aysea on the topic of “What are you waiting for?” In it, she reflects on the human condition as depicted by Beckett, in his play Waiting for Godot.
The theme reminded me of the play “Waiting for Godot” by the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. Together with “No Exit” by Jean Paul Sartre, it is considered the most iconic play of the 20th century on psychological human suffering.
In “Waiting for Godot” the two main characters, homeless vagabonds Vladimir and Estragon, engage in a variety of discussions and encounters on a deserted country road while awaiting the titular Godot, who never arrives. The play is set on an empty stage with a single leafless tree. The characters find themselves in an alien universe devoid of any purpose or meaning. Left to their own devices they appear selfish and callous and treat each other with cruelty. In act two of the play, a few leaves appear on the barren tree, apparently as a result of an act of compassion. It has been suggested that Beckett was hinting that it is the arising of compassion the characters/humanity are waiting for, to free them from alienation and the resulting suffering.
I read “Waiting for Godot” in my early twenties and could very much relate to the dystopian view of the human condition. As a sensitive young adult, I felt heavily burdened by the sheer amount of human suffering and cruelty I saw in the world and which Beckett expertly conjures up in his stripped-down, minimalist play. As someone who has experienced the horrors of World War 2, Beckett knew first-hand the depths of the human condition.
A few decades later not much has changed in the ways of the world, cruelty and suffering still very much abound. Yet I do not experience the hopelessness and despair of my young self any longer. The sensitivity to the suffering of the world is still there, but that in itself does not result in fear or despair, these are related to the question of birth and death. That question is now absent as it has been fully settled.
To settle the question: “Who or what was born and is going to die?”, if the answer is “I, this body-mind”, with that belief, others too are reduced to body-mind entities. When the self is understood to be “I awareness” not subject to birth and death, with the same token, the true nature of all beings is not subject to birth and death, not subject to suffering and inherently innocent.