Waiting

OF ALL HUMAN EXPERIENCES, WAITING may be the least explicable.

We usually experience Time both as a series of events (“progression”) and an eternal Now (“duration”). Progression is as a pot slowly boiling or day growing late or stomach more hungry. “Duration” is the center of whatever moment (and all moments) we experience. These levels are so seamless as to first appear invisible. (Work with me here.)

Waiting suspends your attention — you’ve given your order, taken your place in line, tried to start the engine — now what? Duration has become progression: there’s nothing to do but try to ignore the fact that you’re not doing anything.

This function of being, this interruption in the routine is itself so routine that we even provide for it: rooms or places or marks or appetizers designated “out of the way” of the otherwise passage of time and task.

But not all wait well; one’s character might be said to be revealed by how (or how well) one waits. Character, or something like it, is required to make light of the apparent non-passage of time. I usually bring a book, but the idea is to fill the moment with the momenttake the time in your hand to meditate, engage with your surroundings, or just feel grateful that you got this far.

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