Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Irving. Call me Irv, if you wish."

At about the time you were waiting for various signs from the Cosmos that would clarify some of the mysteries attendant on how your future in the world of writing and publishing would go, a crazed, brilliant, Irishman brought to production a play that would stand the twentieth century on end, influencing the world of theater as it had not been influenced for years, dragging you along in its slipstream.

The brilliant Irishman was Samuel Becket, his play, Waiting for God, familiar to untold thousands, even those who do not know the content of the play.  Whoever you were in the literary world and whatever dreams of success  you nourished within it, you knew that two rather disheveled appeared on stage, waiting for someone with whom they had an appointment.  You also knew that the eponymous Godot for whom they waited never showed up.  The two tramps met two other individuals, with whom they exchanged observations, but no Godot.

In the years to come, you, still embracing relative callowness, engaged in arguments about who, or rather what Godot was.  You were on the verge of being clever then.  Depending on the quality and amount of drinking material to accompany the arguments, you waxed clever or rebarbative, starting out agreeably enough, yet driven by a passion you were not able to articulate for some years, until, on one notable evening, you'd stumbled into a reading of Waiting for God, which you endured because there was someone in the audience you wished to form a relationship with.

You had no patience for the obvious-seeming explanation that Godot, because of his name, was no less than God, accepting and rejecting the proposal that Godot was the representation of the inner self, thus we all waited for the merging of forces we have come to think of as Enlightenment, note the capital E.  Your Buddhist friends would instead say Satori, and your Hindu friends opted for Samadhi or at the very least the Atman.

The reading left you disturbed and angry to the point where you sought your own copy of the script, carried it about with you, and read it several times until the disturbance and anger abated.  You were left with a jumbled vision which even at that time you understood had to do with your own impatience, which was the impatience bordering on desperation of youth.

For the previous four or five years, your impatience centered on discovering a book or play (you were even willing to include short story collection) that would serve as a codex or, even better, a prism, through which the proper amounts of light, wisdom, understanding, empathy, and visions of the human condition would merge into your narrative vision and voice.  For the next several years, you prowled through the aisles and shelves of libraries, used book stores, and those ubiquitous newsstands, filled with paperback reprints.  Your search was that one book that would transform you.

In a sense, you began waiting at about the time Vladimir and Estragon waited for Godot, with a greater sense of purpose than patience.  You might even go on to say your sense of purpose was driven by impatience.  You found a major vehicle for moving forward in your quest by externalizing your internal impatience.  You moved from wanting to write stories to wishing to understand them and what they mean.  

The question to be asked of all characters:  What does he or she want?  You, who wanted to write stories, could relate to this question.  Thus the books in your then library were marked at places where the desires of a specific character were either spelled out or dramatized.

Chapter Two came from discussions with actors and screenwriters.  Not only What does the character want, Why does the character want it right now?

Impatience assumes a presence bordering on haughtiness.  But there it is, the unwillingness to wait, set against the counterpoint of having to wait.  At what age had you come to realize that you had to hoard your desires in the same manner you hoarded nickles and dimes?  At what age did you learn the shifting in proportions, where, as you grew older, there was an increased number of things you wished to achieve, understand, experience?  And how old were you before you were able to articulate such vectors of desire.

However well major events in life appear to be working well for you, there is always something pending, something for which you wait with some anxiety of dread or urgent yearning.

At this point in your life, you've had enough experience with Vladimir and Estragon to understand what was meant by one critic who wrote that the fine actors, Zero Mostel and Bert Lahr, have become the iconic Becket characters who wait for Godot.  Also at this point, another Becket-like tramp comes clumping into your sight from time to time, even waving when he sees you.  Or perhaps, suggesting he may be rushing things a bit, offering a nod.  This of course is Death, who, in this anthropomorphic, Sam Becket sense, has begun waiting for you.

A further add to this point, you wish to have nothing to do with him.  At times, he reminds you of the wily street people you encounter from time to time.  Make eye contact with them and they begin waiting for your spare change.  Make eye contact with Death and he might nod and say, "Irving.  Call me Irv, if you wish."

You do not wish to indulge the outright rudeness of "Fuck you."  Death, whatever his first name, deserves some respect.  Also, you are realistic enough to recognize that some time in the distant future, you might wish to take him up on that first-name-basis offer.  So you nod.  After all, he knows many of your family, knows a number of your friends.  Even knows your remarkable dog companion.  

"Be nice,"  your mother would say.  "Always be nice."  So okay, you're nice.  Next time you see Irving, you'll nod and say "Irving."  But no eye contact.  Next thing you know, he'll be wanting spare change or wondering, "How's things going for you?  Just checking, you understand.  Just wondering, how's by you."

"Irving,"  you say.  But no eye contact.

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