Sunday, December 23, 2018


Here's how this week's arts and culture piece begins:

In this season of waiting, I think of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” the Chinese novelist Ha Jin’s “Waiting,” and T. S. Eliot’s “Wait Without Hope”: “I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing. …”

We wait for the results of the biopsy, the door to open, the phone to ring, for the sun to come up, the curtain to rise, the check to clear, the flowers to bloom, the egg to hatch, for the pain to stop, for Christmas eve, to fall asleep.

One thing we don’t wait for — can’t “wait” for — is to wake up. Maybe in his mercy God gave us sleep because without a seven- to eight-hour break every day from the tension of perpetual waiting, we’d break down. Maybe he needs us to get out of the way for at least a third of the time, with our fear and fretting and scheming and “work,” so he can give us what we need for free.

As Psalm 127 has it:

“In vain is your earlier rising,

your going later to rest,

you who toil for the bread you eat;

when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber.”

I once saw an exhibit of artwork from the early 1900s by patients at a German insane asylum. One framed piece consisted of a sheet of cheap paper on which was written in pencil the same phrase over and over and over, from left to right, and from top to bottom: line after line after overlapping line.

The artist, it turned out, was a woman in her 30s named Emma Hauck who had been diagnosed with terminal dementia praecox (schizophrenia). She was writing to her husband Mark: “Sweetheart Come,” the placard read.


The Brothers Quay, stop-motion animators, did a short film called "In Absentia" based on Hauck.

The image above is a still from it, and there's a low-quality version of it here.

Here's a clip from another of their better-known films.

Two more days till Christmas--I've been in church a lot.

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