ESTRAGON:Wait! (He moves away from Vladimir.) I sometimes wonder if we wouldn’t have been better off alone, each one for himself. (He crosses the stage and sits down on the mound.) We weren’t made for the same road.
VLADIMIR:(without anger.) It’s not certain.
ESTRAGON:No, nothing is certain. Vladimir slowly crosses the stage and sits down beside Estragon.
VLADIMIR:We can still part, if you think it would be better.
ESTRAGON:It’s not worthwhile now. Silence.
VLADIMIR:No, it’s not worthwhile now. Silence.
ESTRAGON:Well, shall we go?
VLADIMIR:Yes, let’s go.
They do not move.
Waiting for Godot, Act 1, by Samuel Beckett
“They do not move” is my twelfth tattoo, all but two of which I have gotten since beginning 10 Cities/10 Years. With each new piece of ink, I try to incorporate a message that speaks both broadly to the project as a whole and specifically to the previous year of my life.
The phrase ‘They do not move’ is the final stage direction in both acts of Beckett’s seminal work of absurdity, Waiting for Godot. The play is repetitive, both in the repeated dialogue and in the way nothing really changes from the first act to the second. This is one of those plays that absolutely invites interpretation and pretty much rewards anyone’s personal take with intentionally ambiguous lines and phrases that go in a hundred different directions.
Probably the most common reading of the play is to assume that “Godot” is a reference to God, and the fact that Godot never arrives and the characters don’t really seem to know who Godot is (though they’re pretty sure they know who he isn’t) gives weight to the idea that this work is Beckett’s criticism of religion and faith. However, Beckett has denied that he intended Godot to represent God, while still admitting that it could have been an unconscious choice. Beckett never gave a definitive interpretation, which means we readers are left to read into the work what we want. It is a literary Rorschach test.
Personally, I think the God-centric reading of the play makes a lot of sense and certainly jives with the frequent references to Jesus and the Bible throughout the play.
Who or whatever ‘Godot’ represents, though, I take the larger message of the play to be a pointed criticism of people who waste away their lives waiting for something, anything, to give them direction, instead of just picking a path and going. The absent instigator could be God, or a career, or a romantic partner or just any sort of passion that never arrives.
I think we all know people who talk about what they’re going to do, someday. They’ve got a lot of dreams, a lot of plans, maybe even genuine ambition, but what they don’t possess is will and self-actualization. They’ll bitch about their job and tell you what they’re going to be doing in 5 years, but 5 years later they’re still bitching about the same job. They do not move.
Over the last year, I’ve received a lot of support from both friends and strangers who have encouraged me through this project and have offered their support.
But I’ve also received a fair amount of criticism from people who think my life is irresponsible, that because I’m not securing a financial future I’m somehow harming myself and, apparently, them, too. I need health insurance, they’ve admonished. I’m never going to have a career, they’ve warned. I’m going to end up mooching off the government, they’ve fumed.
What I’ve taken from this critique is that there will always be people whose imagination is only as big as their wallets. They are afraid of the world and taking risks, and they want others to share their fears because that will validate their inertia. How many of these people who would deem to tell me how to live my life are actually satisfied with their own? In my experience, the people who actually enjoy their lives rarely spend time criticizing others.
I have no patience for people who bitch about their lives but won’t take action to change it. If you’re waiting for the Deus ex machina to come fix your life, be prepared to wait a long, long time.
I move. And I commend the people I meet in my travels that are making moves of their own. That might mean relocating to a new city, but it just as well could mean taking the plunge with a serious relationship or going back to school or finding a new career. A change is a change, and sometimes all life needs is a catalyst.
In Beckett’s hand, an immobile life is an absurdist comedy, but in the real world it’s nothing short of tragedy.
ESTRAGON:Well? Shall we go?
VLADIMIR:Pull on your trousers.
VLADIMIR:Pull on your trousers.
ESTRAGON:You want me to pull off my trousers?
VLADIMIR:Pull ON your trousers.
ESTRAGON:(realizing his trousers are down). True. He pulls up his trousers.
VLADIMIR:Well? Shall we go?
ESTRAGON:Yes, let’s go.