Friday, January 20, 2012

On Waiting

"Stories allow us to pretend that there is a cure for waiting." Harold Schweizer, On Waiting, p. 52
I recently finished Schweizer's book, which I have ultimately decided that I enjoyed, although there were times when I was finding it a bit...I don't know...strained in its language, in something like the way that "analytic philosophers" are annoyed by the style of some "continental philosophers." (I suppose the complaint is that there's not enough substance, if any, behind what looks only like wordplay.) But I pushed through and it's a neat little book. Schweizer attends to the experience of waiting, and among other things to the idea that waiting is integral to a kind of deepening of experience and understanding (of self and other)--that waiting is integral to the attention necessary to appreciate and draw out the significance in art and literature, and that it is in waiting, in the stillness of waiting, that we come into contact with ourselves as temporal beings.

The line I quoted above is one that stuck with me as I read. Stories come to an end. There is--traditionally--some kind of resolution: our waiting and our wading through the story has been served. This helps me understand the frustration some people have with stories and films that have abrupt and somewhat unresolved endings. (My wife hates movies like this.) One's expectations (for resolution) have been frustrated--one is "left hanging" with nowhere to go, or at least the filmmaker has refused to take you there. I tend to approach such films by thinking that if I am disappointed by the ending, then perhaps I have misunderstood what the story was that I was being told. Of course, endings can be disappointing simply because the film wasn't well-made, but there's a kind of jumping to that conclusion that itself might show a lack of reasonable patience (or attention, etc.). Of course, depending on what you're looking for in movie night, you might not be interested in the exercise (cf. my wife)--maybe you prefer instead the respite of that illusion to which Schweizer alludes above.

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