The Act of Waiting

For each individual, time is naturally finite. Every single unit of it matters. It is no surprise then that waiting has the potential to be traumatic: it robs people of precious opportunities. Many go to great lengths to limit their sleep at the expense of their health in a bold attempt to maximize the time available for action. Waiting is for losers. Waiting is wasting.

To make things worse, the negative emotions associated with waiting are aggravated by the feeling that time passes slowly when people wait. It is one reason why artificially creating some wait can be effective in conjunction with M&A tactics. Waiting is maddening.

In corporate management, Accelerate!is one of the most common business concepts embraced and promoted by management consultants such as John Kotter. Speed is of the essence. The lack thereof is anti-capitalistic. Companies must develop in record time the tools and systems to implement the strategies required to beat the competition. Waiting is failing.

But waiting also presents an opportunity to live in the present and let the right brain hemisphere take over. As Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist, writes in her book My stroke of insight(2009), ‘[To our right hemisphere], no time exists other than the present moment, and each moment is vibrant with sensation. […] The present moment is a time when everything and everyone is connected together as [one big picture].’ Waiting is being.

In Delayed Response: The Art of Waiting from the Ancient to the Instant World (2018), Jason Farman observes that the act of waiting has become an anomaly in today’s fast-paced world. With apt references to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot,’ the author does, however, argue that waiting offers an invaluable opportunity for self-reflexivity: ‘In the act of waiting, we become who we are.’ Waiting is growing.

Mr. Farman goes further. He reframes waiting as an investment in the community: ‘If we work toward an awareness of time as collective rather than individual, […] wait time becomes an investment in the social fabric that connects us.’ The cost of one’s time tends to benefit others. This statement gains a particular dimension during these periods of COVID restrictions. Waiting is giving.

Performance artists Tehching Hsieh and Marina Abramovic have brought endurance art to mastership. This art form emerged in the late ’60s and early ‘70s and can be defined asartworks generally performed over a long period of time that may test the physical or emotional stamina of the artist or audience.’ For that reason, it is also called the waiting art. Waiting is performing.

Waiting is whatever is made of it.

Waiting is defining.

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