Godot well worth the wait

Waiting for Godot is one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century and the production playing in Wellington surpasses all my expectations.

Why is it a great play? Because it is about that most elusive of subjects: the meaning of life. But this is not a long, miserable inaccessible philosophical work. (If you want that read Hegel or Fichte)

Consider the opening lines.

      Nothing to be done says Estragon (coming onto stage)

Vladimir responds

I'm beginning to come around to that opinion. All my life I have tried to put it

from me, saying Vladimir, be reasonable, you haven't tried everything.

And I resumed the struggle.


That is as good a statement of existential angst as you will find anywhere.  Take a moment to consider what Vladimir says. Reluctantly he is being drawn to the conclusion that nothing much in life makes any real difference. In other words, life is crap and then you die.

 But all his life Vladimir says he has fought against that conclusion. While acknowledging its power (and perhaps its ultimate truth) he has struggled to find meaning, to seek happiness, to make others happy, to find something worthwhile and significant to do while he has life in body and air in his lungs.

 He - the universal human figure - may not have been very successful at it, but he has tried, and he is keeping on trying. He will not give up simply because there is adversity, or because he hasn't found meaning yet. It might still be there. It might come with the mysterious Godot.

 This is an affirmation of the value of the human spirit; life despite all its desperate experiences is better than death; life is worth living, at least while there is hope that there might be some point to it all. After all, "he hasn't tried everything yet".

 The possibilities have not been exhausted. Even after the experiences of the 20th century, a murderous war, a cruel peace, the world's worse ever depression, another calamitous war displacing millions, a peace which contained the ever present prospect of nuclear annihilation, and a cosy materialism that  provided goods in lieu of human happiness, the man still has hope.

 And so Vladimir declares, "And I resumed the struggle".  He is not giving up yet. He is still reaching out, exploring, seeking, searching for whatever there is to find. Maybe there is nothing to find. That possibility cannot be excluded, but he is not ready to surrender to that. He will continue the struggle and to wait for Godot (which I understand as a metaphor for the meaning of life).

 There are many laughs, and some genuinely funny moments from both the script and the actors. It is a dark play, but it is also an uplifting affirmation of humanity in the depths of dark despair. It may be the play that bears the label "where nothing happens - twice". But I believe much does happen. Our humanity is exalted.