Thursday, March 21, 2013

Waiting for Godot? Hell no!

In 1953, Samuel Beckett, an Irishman living in Paris, published 'En attendant Godot', and then translated it himself into English,  'Waiting for Godot'.

It was produced in 1955 at a theater in Paris and since then has been performed non-stop at a theater locale somewhere in the world.  It's the only play about which that can be said.  In 1999,  it was named "the most significant play of the 20th century".

For those of you who are  not familiar with the play, it's essentially about two men --  call them rakes, hobos, bums, anchorites, idiot savants, hippies or punks  (if you want to modernize it) -- wandering about the stage not knowing where they are going and just as uncertain as to whether they should keep moving or 'wait for Godot' --whose presence is imminent but who never actually shows up.*[See a sample of the dialogue at the bottom of this blog.]

Of course a play like this -- labelled absurdist, existential, and even nonsensical-- is an enigma that has been subjected to a broad range of interpretations and explanations. Beckett himself said that he wasn't sure what it was about exactly, and that he might have written parts of it while in a 'trance'. 

I saw a production of the play, fittingly enough, on a barge docked along the Left Bank of the Seine River in Paris in 1976. It was a seminal experience in my life. I was 23 years old and had just graduated college. A few days after seeing the play,  while strolling around Paris feeling fancy free, as I was want to do,  I came across the cast of the play having lunch at an open-air table on a patch of grass alongside the floating barge. They appeared to be as flamboyantly rakish and raffish in real life as they had been on stage -- laughing and drinking, and, well, simply enjoying life (Joie de vivre!).

If there had been any corporate inclinations in my 20 year old future perspective on life, they were wiped out in that moment. That's how I wanted to live!

But, in addition to that, having seen the play, I feel, also entitles me to  my own opinion about what 'Waiting for Godot' means: I've always felt that Beckett was warning us against the human proclivity to look for authority figures to tell us what to do. The proclivity must be burned into our DNA because, except for this recent and brief (and still fragile) experiment with democracy, we humans have throughout history fought long and hard to be ruled by some particular authority figure, be it king, emperor, dictator, pope or cult leader.

It's understandable to want things to go right, and to want to put as little effort into it as possible -- after all, don't we elect people and pay them good money to do that for us? But is that realistic? I'd argue no, and I think Beckett might agree with me. 

I think that many liberals, progressives -- whatever they prefer to call themselves these days-- had a 'Waiting for Godot' attitude toward the election of Barak Obama.  They expected that just by the fact of electing him,  that the election in and of itself would change things.

I think it's time to heed Beckett's ever timely and significant warning against waiting for others to do for us what we know deep down we can only do for ourselves.

You can argue how effective, or not, Barak Obama has been as president, but his two terms in office have opened up an eight-year window of opportunity to push a progressive agenda forward without the interference of a reactionary conservative in the White House.

The question should not be about Obama's performance, but our own.  Are we doing enough to advocate  for economic fairness, affordable housing, living wages, banking and financial reforms? 

Pick a cause you feel something about and push for it. If not, don't blame 'Godot' for not showing up.

Please check out my Facebook group, Advocate for Economic Fairness! 

And, if you like, you can also watch this video of me talking about kindness and being homeless -- during which, I must admit, I did feel a little like one of Beckett's untethered waifs.

* Dialogue from Waiting for Godot: “Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. Not indeed that we personally are needed. Others would meet the case equally well, if not better. To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late! Let us represent worthily for one the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us! What do you say? It is true that when with folded arms we weigh the pros and cons we are no less a credit to our species. The tiger bounds to the help of his congeners without the least reflexion, or else he slinks away into the depths of the thickets. But that is not the question. What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in the immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come -- ”


  1. Grеat blog! Do you havе any recommendations for aspігing ωriterѕ?
    Ι'm hoping to start my own site soon but I'm a little lοst on еverythіng.

    Would yοu advіѕe starting
    with a freе plаtfοrm liκe Wоrdрrеss or
    go for a paid optiοn? Thеre are so many choices out there that
    I'm completely confused .. Any ideas? Thanks a lot!

    Here is my site ::

    1. I would definitely advise the free platforms. Other than that, I can only say, keep your blogs focused on your goals.

  2. I read this piece of wгitіng comρletely conсerning the difference
    of latest аnd eагliеr technolοgies, it's amazing article.

    My web site :: lloyd irvin

  3. WОW just whаt I wаs loоking for.
    Ϲame here bу searсhing for netωork

    Here iѕ mу web page ...

  4. Greate article. Keep writing such kind of information on your blog.
    Im really impressed by your site.
    Hey there, You've done an excellent job. I will certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I'm confident
    they'll be benefited from this site.

    Feel free to visit my blog post :: Justin Sather

  5. Hello thеre, just beсame alert to your blog through Google,
    and found that іt's truly informative. I'm gonna watch out for
    bruѕsels. I'll appreciate if you continue this in future. Numerous people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

    Here is my web blog ... reputation management

  6. Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article!
    It's the little changes that will make the largest changes.
    Thanks a lot for sharing!

    Also visit my web blog ... University of Kentucky watch

  7. Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long hae you bsen blogging for?
    you made bloggging look easy. The overall look of
    your sitte is wonderful, as welol ass the content!

    Feel free to surf to my page :: You Can Try This Out