Still(a)Life #25: Our Living Rooms, our Waiting Rooms

As the days pass, there is a deepening contrast between an “inside” and an “outside”. A definite boundary between things happening “in here” and the news I read about the world “out there”. I haven’t read much news the past few days. It feels pretty obvious to me that things “out there” will never be the same again. Today I spoke to a man who, by necessity, has his finger on the pulse of our economy. The conversation wasn’t about “out there”, it was about his “in here” but he mentioned a few things in passing, like “the greatest economic downturn the modern world has ever seen”.

I get a bit concerned when I speak to people and they don’t yet share the same concern about this. But its most likely because they are more concerned right now about the things “in here”, starting to bubble to the surface. I get a privileged window into people’s in-here-ness, especially in these times. My laptop opens up like a window into people’s living rooms. Curious term, “living rooms”. Are these meant to be the rooms we do our living in? Can we even call this living? How do we define what it means to really be living? Perhaps, for now, they should be called “waiting rooms”? Aren’t we all just waiting for something to happen? But, are we waiting for things to happen “out there” or “in here”? It’s a bit like Samuel Beckett’s 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 — ”
― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Nevertheless, while we wait for Godot (who never arrives), Lockdown brings us face to face with the thoughts and feelings that have been waiting to for us. Especially as the novelty of sleep-ins, laps around the garden and playing monopoly with your kids wears off: there are things “in here” that want to be known. As the rations of ethanol dwindle, thoughts and feelings make themselves known. I’m hoping that my bubbles of ginger, yeast and sugar can beat my thoughts to the surface.

In all honesty, I feel much gratitude for the courage those in conversation with me are showing. It is a noble task to keep talking through these uncertain times. It’s much easier to build a fort with your kids in the supposed living room. Each session feels like we are going places we have never gone before. “I never thought I would say this”; “I never really realised this”; “I never thought I would write this”; “I’ve never ever talked about this before”. These are the precursors to almost every conversation in the last few days. I would like to take the credit, but it has more to do with the “waiting rooms” than therapy. There are things lying in waiting for us, if we just give them the time.

Buddhism has always known this. True insight doesn’t come from “working it all out”. True insight comes from the courage to just sit with things and see what it is that they have to reveal to us. True insight is not a cerebral event but rather a visceral experience. So as you wait for things to happen “out there”, outside of your control, take the time to listen to the things happening “in here” – they have things to tell you.

“You’re on Earth. There’s no cure for that.”
― Samuel Beckett

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