on waiting

As is my habit, from time to time, I have thrown the I Ching to draw the hexagram called 'Hsü/Waiting (Nourishment)'. I am surprised by this synchronous event. 'Wait' is a word which reverberates in my thoughts. It is uncomfortable and discomforting. I detest waiting, rippled by moments of anxiety, anticipation and unfulfilled desire. In writing about waiting, I feel that I am really writing about impatience. Wait. I repeat the word to convey its manifold applications; apprehension, wait, warning, wait, restraint, wait, expectation, wait, passivity, wait, yielding, wait, doubt, wait.

I wait and I wonder 'for what?'.


Can you dissociate waiting from time, timetables,
from the microscopic divisions of day and night,
the twenty-four hour clock,
the television hour,
the expected arrival time?
You know only too well the
spaces of waiting -
airport lounges,
doctors rooms,
bus stations,
lines where there are
perhaps even seats for you to sit.
You sit.
You wait

Is this the feminine; to be the one left waiting?

Their anxieties have some other unidentifiable source. It is me who is unreal, or as Barthes states, whose "waiting is stricken by unreality". What would I do, if I did not wait?

Fall hard upon a verb of action?

Pick up the phone? (He who hesitates is lost!)

Go on! Just do it!

I cojole myself into believing that waiting is not waste, not empty or futile, not misplaced hope. Rather, it is an in-between state - neither here nor there - which augurs possibility, a transition, a becoming, a strangeness, an exchange. It is unknown and perhaps delightful.

Electronic writing replaces itself with something of the pendulous, anxious instant that follows when the lecturer called 'Next Slide Please', to the unseen projectionist. (Joyce, p.232)

Like waste, waiting is the excess which cannot easily be absorbed back into the system. In itself it has no use; it is not for sale. And yet it is the space through which things happen.

In the commentary, waiting means not advancing, holding back, deferance, perseverance.

(In the language of love and war, waiting is then strategic. A tactic whereby one conceals ones hand, lies low, keeps the cards close to the body. Let the other reveal their naked flank! I'm staying put!)

It is defensive, afraid of rejection. Embedded within it is a sense of abiding, of biding one's time. (There is prudence in waiting). I will heed this advice as I have no apparent alternative. I will wait and not be concerned with questions such as 'for what?' My waiting is graceful. I hope that good fortune will come of this strangeness.


There is an elusive subtlety in waiting that recedes in spaces measured by speed.

adagio The pace of waiting is slowness
languid, longing & lingering

It is not the absence of haste or speed (or its other) but its alterity. How can we speak of slowness or of waiting in this space measured in ever-increasing velocity? Pure speed is a measure, a fetish, an excess. Any moment spent idle is waiting. Any moment spent waiting is idle, lost momentum, a sign of slowness. Poor service.

We apologise for being late, for making others wait. This is bad manners - 'good manners cost nothing' you know. The time spent waiting is an eternity. We languish in these small eternities.

But I fear that waiting will be extinguished by the pursuit of pure speed, flat and undiscerning.

Waiting will not be permitted to bring the nuanced possibilities of in-between. The vignetted moments of absent- mindedness may be diminished. It will not be permitted to communicate that which is derived from the act of waiting, from its very slowness.

For Barthes, waiting is that "tumult of anxiety provoked by waiting for the loved being,
subject to trivial delays
(rendezvous, letters, telephone calls, returns)."
So, what are you waiting for?

an invitation?

Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse: Fragments
Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium