“Have You Not Done Tormenting Me With Your Accursed Time!”–Pozzo, From Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot

Bert Lahr As Estragon In Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot.

Bert Lahr as Estragon In Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot.

In Act 2 of Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot, the previously conceited and self-assured Pozzo has lost the watch that regulated his life and gone blind.  His slave, Lucky, has become dumb, which is in stark contrast to the long, rambling, and disturbing speech he gives in Act 1.  In Beckett’s work, virtually all of his characters suffer from some physical ailment that makes life even more painful for them.  Vladimir, the more intellectual side of man, suffers from kidney problems, while Estragon, the more earthy side of man, suffers from pains in his feet.  The above photo shows Estragon suffering from acute pain, both mental and physical.  But Waiting for Godot is about more than pain;  it is about time and its manifestations.  The very title implies time.  In Beckett, time exists as an abstract entity, but it does initiate specific changes that are crucial to the dramatic power of the play.  It is not surprising that the play is often described in musical terms, because music embodies time and variations in tonal patterns.  When we examine the events of Act 2 as opposed to Act 1, we see some musical parallels.  On the whole, although Estragon and Vladimir don’t change in Act 2, the people around them do and they create a more menacing, threatening tone.  Pozzo, who dragged Lucky as his slave on a long rope in the previous act is now blind and guided by Lucky, who is now dumb and on a short rope.  Also, Lucky wears a different hat.  His previous one remains on the stage.  In the second act, Vladimir is alone with the Boy, Mr. Godot’s messenger, as Estragon is asleep.  Without Estragon’s loud, whiney voice, the scene is subdued and unbearably sad.  The hopelessness that Vladimir feels when he learns that Mr. Godot “does nothing” is tangible throughout the audience and the confined space of the theater.  “Tell him that you saw me” are the last words that Vladimir says to Godot’s messenger.  While Vladimir can recognize the Boy, the latter can’t recognize him.  Beckett appears to be saying that our existence is so meaningless that our individual characteristics count as nothing.  Quite a contrast to Pozzo’s trumpeting ego and arrogance in Act 1.  Time inevitably brings death to a human life and both acts deal early with words about death.  In Act 1, Vladimir and Estragon discuss the possibility of hanging themselves.  In Act 2, Vladimir sings about a dog that a cook beats to death with a ladle.  He repeats the last words of the song four times, the last line five times, “Then all the dogs came running and dug the dog a tomb.”  Time has done its job.  The crescendo arrives with Pozzo’s anguished outburst:  “Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time!…, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that enough for you?  Then, what follows is Beckett’s view of life that reverberates in several of his works:  “They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.”  Pozzo and Lucky go off, leaving an ominous silence.  But, throughout all the darkness and despair, the once barren tree has produced a few leaves and Vladimir and Estragon’s friendship will continue…

Some Thoughts And Reflections During The Jewish New Year

“God gave us the gift of life.  We don’t need any more.”–Allan Sherman from The Rape of APE

Another year has passed.  To the Jews, the coming of the harvest during the closest new moon marks the beginning of another year.  It is not surprising that the festival, Rosh Hashanah(literally, the head of the year) is one of the most sacred to the Jews, and, indeed, has implications for all.  The Jewish New Year is more than the turning of the calendar, it is a time to reflect on what has been and to recognize one’s actions.  For me the previous year was truly “laden with happiness and tears”.  I lost my Mom on June 21, one week after her 90th birthday.  But, in the loss, my Dad and I formed a stronger bond.  “We will get through this together”.  Nevertheless, I was forced to face a new emptiness:   For the first time, I went to Oregon without either of my parents, surrounded by family portraits.  It wasn’t easy.  Towards the end of summer, I lost my dear friend, Don Donegan, who had been Chair of the Board of Directors of Medford Education International and had taught me much of what I know about business.  His home was Black Oaks, located on a beautiful stretch of the Rogue River.  I made many a trip to visit him on Pine Gate Way amid a crowd of llamas.  Those visits are over.  However, there were also joys.   I made new friends through the Eagle Point Writer’s Critique Group.  I saw Warm Springs Falls for the first time and walked down the re-named T’lomikh Falls on the Rogue River.  Another year.

What follows are some miscellaneous and scattered thoughts that come from a troubled mind:

The term “religious” fanaticism is a strange one.  When we think about a Lewis Carroll fanatic, do we mean someone that takes joy in ripping up editions of Alice in Wonderland?  Hardly.  Does a Beethoven fanatic spend time recklessly destroying CDs of Beethoven’s symphonies?  Absolutely not.  Yet, the people we often call “religious” fanatics, go about gleefully destroying God’s creations.  Does that make any sense?  Wouldn’t a religious fanatic weep when a new child was born,  kiss the trees,  or bless the stars, rejoicing in God’s creations, not destroying them?  I think so.  My belief is that there is a fanatically-oriented personality that grasps “religion”, which is often a dark mask for the groping hands of power.  By calling such charlatans “religious'” fanatics, we are often elevating criminals to a higher level.  We are, in some sense, giving validation to their nefarious deeds.  We know the power of words.  Human history has choked on them.  “Words are no shoddier than what they peddle.”  Beckett.  But when I witness the current atrocities in the Middle East, I am reminded of lines from Waiting from Godot:

Pozzo:  I am Pozzo!  Pozzo!  Does that name mean nothing to you?  I said does that name mean nothing to you?

Estragon:  I once knew a family called Gozzo.  The mother had “the clap”.

I will finish this post with lines from my dear friend, Sarah Seff Rolfe, taken from her poem, Quasars at Dacca:  “Earth, a tiny bead spinning in space, and still learning.”

May all of you enjoy a year of discovery, peace, understanding, and joy.