Everyone is waiting for someone. Everyone you see, his heart is an airport in an ice storm. Some people are waiting on someone to pair up with, and others are waiting for someone to stop telling that story again or to load the dishwasher or be like she used to be.
Western people are uniquely qualified to wait. Jews wait for Messiah. Christians wait for Jesus. Americans are even more into it. They wait for progress, and for innovations to kick in. The next year’s model. Lately we pretend not to be waiting– that salvation is emotional, or spiritual, or in the acts of others. We fret that America is on the decline, rather than climbing to greater glories. I think we are still waiting, just with more shame.
Artists are either in love, or waiting. I’m either in the middle of writing something, or wishing I was. I’m either in love with the book I’m reading– like I can’t wait to be with it, and when we are together I am lost in it– or I am craving a new book. To write the new thing, you need the new book or the new movie or place or something to turn you on to newness.
I’m waiting to let my students go. They want to go. I want to go. Every day for months I’ve had their names in my mouth, and we’re all smelling each other and annoying each other. My shoes do not go with my outfit. They do not feel like reading. They are crying about losing boyfriends and asking me existential questions. And then, after December 17th, they are gone. Vanished. I don’t miss them. I’m much too tired to miss them. And much too absorbed in everything I love to do and think about that is overshadowed by teaching. The transition still shocks me, though.
Our reading this week was Jesus talking about John the Baptist. John’s followers are concerned that their leader is in jail, probably going to be executed (in a clear bummer of foreshadowing for the Jesus crew). Is this Jesus guy the Next Big Thing? Or are they screwed? Were they waiting for something that didn’t get there? Did they get what they wanted from John? Did he give them what they were waiting for? Jesus, like any good spiritual teacher, lays out an explanation people can easily argue about for 2,000 years without coming to any conclusions.
First, he says, tell John good things are happening out here. Like the dead are being raised. He throws in his regular least/greatest paradox, and wraps up by reminding everyone that although people have called him a drunken pig, he’s done some good stuff, hasn’t he? And why aren’t you guys noticing the great people and good stuff happening right now around you, anyway?
I do miss things, by looking at the future. I know that. The future makes me human, though. How could I teach anyone without imagining how the drawers we install will be filled with relationships and experiences and conversations? While the process of learning is gorgeous sometimes, the results of learning are staggering to imagine. Perhaps the future and the present have to pull on each other to stay upright.