Today the answer is easy and quick: I am truly waiting for the super heat wave to finally pass. And then?
Waiting seems to be a fundamental human “activity” although it can appear in quite different clothes. Why are we waiting and what are we waiting for?
Being busy and waiting at the same time?
You might say: I don’t wait a lot, I have so much to do, and I have no time for waiting. You might exactly FEEL like that, but aren’t you waiting, anyway? Waiting for the work to be finally accomplished, for the boss to finally recognize your bravery, for the next pay check, for the next weekend, for the lunch break, for a coffee or a cigarette? You might not be actively waiting by sitting in the corner and thinking exclusively about what you are waiting for. You might be engaged in all sorts of different activities and the waiting component runs alongside, undercover, in your mind and in your organism.
Life is waiting
I was struck lately by the insight that all human (and animal) life consists of a permanent time stream characterized by waiting. A pregnant woman is “expecting”. Doesn’t that mean that she is “waiting” for the fetus to grow in her belly and then be born? Sometimes women are waiting far over time to give birth to their child, this is recognized as “waiting”, for sure. But before birth it was waiting, too; waiting for the unknown to arrive, waiting for what could happen the next moment – the movement felt in the belly or the lack of it -, waiting for the next week, the next month, the next year. We don’t know what will happen and we are waiting for the future to unfold in our lives.
Active & passive waiting
There is a difference between “active” waiting and “passive” waiting, or conscious waiting and waiting without being conscious that we are waiting. The fetus is waiting to grow and has no idea that he or she does so. Children become conscious about their waiting in increasing degrees. When hungry, the baby cries and waits for the food to arrive. Later children are told that they need to wait for all sorts of things. It is part of the training for life that children learn to postpone gratification, which means nothing other than waiting consciously for a goodie instead of devouring it immediately. Studies show that children who have learned this have a hugely higher probability of being successful in life. So waiting purposefully for something better in the future is a very useful thing, not bad at all.
Conditioned for waiting
But when can “waiting” become a “bad” thing? Actually, the “bad waiting” demand creeps into our lives without us really noticing it. A 4-year-old is told that he or she has to wait until 6 to be able to do or get certain things; all children wait to become older, teenagers or “adults”, because they think that “real life” will start then whereas their child-life is somehow insufficient, not valuable and therefore to be gotten over as soon as possible. The joyful life of a child’s mind is erased by the desire of a promised future which needs to be waited for. Waiting for getting older overshadows the present and devalues it as “not ok”.
Later, when we get the scooter license we are waiting for the car driving license; we wait until we finally can leave school – which was my case, for sure – and then we can go to University, when “real life” promises to begin. Some time into University I was waiting for finally passing my exams and becoming an MA. Other people are waiting for their completion of the professional training because the “true life” will start with finding a good job. Maybe we have found a husband, wife or life partner in the meantime for whom we have waited since adolescence and whom we have expected to guide us into the promised land of a fulfilled life. Maybe we are lucky and it works out for some time, but aren’t we all waiting for the relationship problems to arrive which we have witnessed as “normal” among others. Or better, aren’t we waiting for them NOT to arrive? We are waiting, though, in one way or the other.
In our professional career, we start waiting from day #1. Normally we begin at the bottom of the power hierarchy and we are told that we have to march up the ladder to success, as an employee as well as a solopreneur. We invest a lot of energy, of work and of learning and we are constantly waiting for the moment when all that will “pay off”. Some people seem to have reached what we want to reach and they promise to teach us how to do it ourselves – by feeding them money from our desire to abbreviate the waiting time for the fulfillment of our dreams.
Does waiting ever end?
Maybe your waiting ends in one particular field, but there is still enough waiting material in your life where you can continue to engage whole heartedly: your first, second or fifth child to be born, to go to school, to grow up, to become successful and what not; everything you were waiting for for yourself can become a waiting subject for you by transferring it to your children, or your siblings, your group, your society.
What are we waiting for and why?
So what are we REALLY waiting for? For a better future? For something miraculous to happen in our lives? For the world to change? For freedom, wealth, health, success, whatever? For being free from the burden of responsibility? The burden of living? The promised land after all the suffering which human life implies?
You might insist that you are not waiting, you have a goal to achieve and you are busy the whole day to finally arrive there. This is a form of non-conscious waiting, non-active waiting, as your activity is bound and focused on that goal and you are not sitting around noticing the awkward burden of “just waiting” like you might know it from the doctor’s waiting room or before the results of an election are announced. Those moments I would call ACTIVE WAITING and we all are good in trying to get over that as soon as possible by distracting our attention from the burden of conscious active waiting. But it is still waiting when we watch a film, go out for dinner or dive into our work during these times of focused expectations.
I believe that, ultimately, we are waiting for the end of our life on earth, curious what might happen afterwards. This long waiting time is structured by the many worldly things we are waiting for. If it is the financial success, career fulfillment, becoming grandparents or reaching enlightenment, there is no real difference regarding our propensity for waiting. The object of the waiting process changes according to our age and stage of consciousness, to our inclinations and personality traits, but the waiting persists from birth to death.
Who are you in the face of – waiting?
So the question arises: What is it what you personally are waiting for? What did you wait for when you were a child, a young adult, in midlife and in your older years? Did the objects of your waiting change? And did you reach what you were waiting for and how did that feel for you? Did it give you the satisfaction and nourishment which you had expected? And in case you didn’t reach it: what was the consequence of it? Did you become disappointed and bitter, or did you succeed to get a kick into the future because of the failure? Only you can find that out, it will be different for everybody, at least on the surface, but probably not in the deeper layers of life. Here the question is: Did you learn and are you still learning from the outcome of the various waiting processes you were engaged in? Does it lead to your growing up into a differentiated and responsible adult? Or did you stay a helpless child in a grown up body?
Still waiting to grow up?
Looking at the present situation of our world it is easy to deduce that most people are stuck with the last option. A president who behaves like a 4-year-old. Military chiefs in need of new playgrounds for their insane games, scientists who try to bend reality to their theories, ruthless mafia gangs pursuing money and power: none of these display maturity as a human being but being stuck in egocentrism and omnipotent fantasies – a rather low level of possible development which is available to us humans today.
So where are you? Where am I and where are those around us?
If you have read so far I assume that you have traveled more of “the road less traveled” (Scott Peck). You are able to face your reality and that of the world and you are willing to explore what can be done to facilitate change for the benefit of the whole world, humanity, our planet and the whole cosmos. I am really glad to meet you here!
Now the question: what can we do, both together, and each of us by ourselves?
I suggest that we begin with noticing when we are waiting, again, and check what we are waiting for and what we try to avoid with this specific act of waiting. I am talking about our waiting for others to do what we desire and want to happen. Waiting for the state, society or whoever to resolve the problems we are facing. Waiting for the courageous people to step up and take the blame while we are hiding out behind the curtain of our cowardice. Or just waiting that the nightmare will stop, that we recognize reality as a dream where we can easily wake up and everything is fine – a dear and well-practiced illusion which we are far too eager to embrace by giving it the name HOPE.
Hope, motivation, inspiration, and engagement is needed.
We need the power of hope, but hope alone and waiting for things to change is not something to rely on. Sure, change will happen anyway, but without our participation, it most likely will go into a direction which we didn’t foresee and probably didn’t want. There are too many malevolent forces in this world who will take advantage to direct change towards their own interests as soon as there is “laissez faire”, a vacuum, which our lethargy, our fears, and inertia give to them. They, for sure, are highly motivated to direct the world where they want it to go.
We need at least the same degree of motivation and dedication to counterbalance them. That means we need to get out of victimism and helplessness and begin to step up and DO. Do what? Well, begin and find out what the right thing is for you, for me, for the many others who want a positive change but are still holding back by indecisiveness.
What I am doing:
As for myself, I begin with writing down my thoughts and hold public conversations at the Wisdom Factory and I am trying to inspire others to do the same and distribute their insights to as many others as possible. I talk with people about edgy topics and do my best to help them see new perspectives on “old” things. I try to connect people and to create initiatives for collaboration and co-creation – which often can mean simply: listen to each other and engage in creative dialog to find ideas and solutions together which neither of us alone could have conceived.
Will you join the tribe who decides to abandon active waiting and step into active creating? You are so welcome!
Also published on Medium.