Friday, March 19, 2021

Waiting to Wait


[T]his whole time, which to us seems so long while it is rolling along, is really a moment [punctum]. Whatever has an end is not long.

– Augustine, Ennarationes in Psalmos


And since it seems a time for waiting [aspettare] . . . All our troubles, if we carefully seek out their source, derive in some way from not knowing how to make a proper use of time.

– Dante, Convivio


Wait. I can’t wait. Thank you for waiting. The common experience and concept of waiting falls on its sense of being something that you, oneself, must undergo. The gravity of waiting (the wait of being) presents itself as something to be borne, undergone, avoided or endured. Whatever or whoever one waits for, however patiently or impatiently, selfishly or unselfishly, purely or impurely, it is hard to shake the feeling that it is I who waits, on behalf of me, for myself. Yes, we wait for, with, and are asked/made to wait by, others, but it seems that it is always we who wait, the ones waiting. There is a good dose of pretense, dishonesty, and perverse pleasure in the weight of waiting—performance of imposition, fear of silence and/or time, refusal of self-reliance, need for attention/distraction, resentment and restlessness of all kinds. Why can you just wait? And there is also space for joy, as when what is waited for is so great that you might be in heaven waiting forever. But whether you cannot stand waiting or are too happy to, one is still waiting. There seems no way around it. And yet . . .  


I would like something different, a kind or degree or waiting that starts by escaping the boring/excited me-ness of waiting, an order of waiting that offers at once the best and the worst way to wait, as per the three-fold meaning of my title, which carries: a) the flat sense of superadded waiting, waiting only to wait more, where to refers infinitively to the activity one is waiting for; b) the intensive sense of waiting as means of its own end, where to signifies the instrumentality of action (in order to, so as to); and c) the paradoxical sense of waiting that does not wait at all precisely by deferring or postponing it, that waits to wait, waiting yet not yet. Waiting to wait in this triple way is conceivable as a form of eternal waiting, keeping in mind the word’s double reference to the timeless and the sempiternal, now and forever. Tying together, like head and tail of the ouroboros, a waiting that never ends and a waiting that never begins, eternal waiting unites the opposite senses of waiting to wait around the middle sense of the present moment of waiting per se. As the anagogic sense of medieval exegesis proverbially gives a ‘foretaste [praegustus] of paradise’, finding in the suspended moment of reading the palpable presence of a truth or reality that is non-futurally to come, so do I anticipate this waiting to wait, not as something that need ever arrive from anywhere else, but as the direct elevation of simple waiting, a flight of the ground where waiting waits.