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Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

You can read Waiting for Godot as humanity’s most significant and unpretentious canon of what it means to live. We often fill in the gaps after the words ‘to live’ with ‘a meaningful life’ so it turns an incomplete sentence into something more believable and palatable. Something that erases the edginess and sting out of time’s passage, a descent into nothingness.

Waiting for Godot - Samuel Beckett

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To live a meaningful life. Repeat this sentence a few more times and it starts to sound absurd and alienated from anything remotely human. But we have no choice but to repeat these words with eyes sealed shut and mouths agape. Something Beckett breaks away from in the play.

Waiting For Godot insists on the ironic solemnity and destitution of man trapped in the act of living. Why burden Life with meaning? The act of living, the excess, and poverty of it, is tragic enough. I couldn’t help but read parts of the play through the lens of Nietzsche’s idea of Eternal Recurrence.

The notion that all existence is recurring and it continues to recur an infinite number of times across infinite time or space. Doesn’t that best illustrate the lives of Vladimir and Estragon in the play? At least a fragment of it.

Beckett locates the theatricality of the play in anything but an “infinite” setting – nothing changes from the beginning to the end. It is also that the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. Its repetition is what evokes feelings of angst and uncertainty. It frustrates those inattentive to the silent cry of the characters, and their existential dimensions, while it moves a few others to tears for those very reasons.

What Rumi meant when he wrote, “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.” And what Newton meant by “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.” What a composite of contradictions their meanings intuit in relation to the human experience of opposites? Laughter and tears, action and inaction, and desire and sloth.

I’ll end this “review” with another quote from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein:

“Nothing is more painful to the human mind than the dead calmness of inaction and certainty which follows and deprives the soul of both hope and fear.”

Read Waiting for Godot in this light and you’ll sense a shift in your impression of the world by the end of the play. This play was a kind of consolation for me, one that I didn’t know I needed – a dark, icy, and purifying solitude.


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