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The Art of Waiting 

Maayan Goldman

Waiting is a thickening agent. When poured into time, it thickens it and fortifies its power of resistance. I try to treat waiting with a countermovement of my own. To break it down to its constituents, so that it loses its power over me (I fail). 

I begin by asking – what is the object of waiting?
If I were to insist on a comprehensive answer, I would say that I am always waiting for one single object: actualization.

I am waiting for the thing to happen. For someone to come, call or write. For the idea to crystalize, to be understood and turn into words. I am waiting for change. I am waiting to become who I hoped to be. I am waiting, in fact, for my life to begin – for something, anything, to begin. Or end. Waiting for the disquiet to disappear, and for my headache to stop – then, finally, my life will begin. And everything concealed in my life will at last actualize. And so will I. 
(Sometimes I wait for actualization's negative double. For annihilation. For the pain to end. For everything else to end.)

In writing about actualization and non-actualization, philosopher Giorgio Agamben develops Aristotle’s idea of two types of potentiality: generic potentiality and existing potentiality. 

Generic potentiality is an open potentiality which must undergo transformation and actualization. This is its inherent characteristic, and it is embodied by the child who can only grow, learn and develop. We find existing potentiality, on the other hand, in the already developed knowledge or ability, which can now be either actualized or not actualized. It is embodied by the poet, who writes, but can also not write. By her side I see the photographer, who has the power to photograph, to realize the potential of the photographic object, and herself through it, so that she can finally stop waiting for it. Or she can actualize her non-actualization. To wait, nothing more. And she waits as it is, being a photographer. 

Perhaps apart from the two forms of actualization embodied in these two figures, there are also two forms of waiting for this actualization: the waiting of the writer and the photographer, versus the waiting of the child.

The photographer waits for the actualization of the frame she has already seen (or dreamt) in her mind’s eye, before the actual moment of photographing. Light falling on a shoulder or a cheek. The roughness of the fabric and its density. The body's position against the background. The elusive ambiance whose components have consolidated in her imagination, in a brief moment of consistency. And since she has already held that moment in her hands, she might now miss it, lose it. She is even likely to lose it. Finding the imagined frame and actualizing it is a rare occurrence.

And I know, at least in part, what it was that I wanted to say here, what I wanted to write.

I do not attack it; I do not try to snatch or trap it. I wait for it. This is what I have learned, to simply wait. To lie in wait while feigning nonchalance. Me? I am just sitting here minding my own business.

But in each moment of writing or nonwriting I am parting with it. It is not even a probability of separating; it is a certainty. Whatever I write – it will be different.

On the other hand, at least so it appears – the child. The embodiment of a potential which must necessarily be actualized, the child takes growing up for granted. So much so, that she is exempt from waiting for it. She is exempt, even, from being aware of waiting, as well as of growing up, and of the loss it entails. She takes for granted her ability to take for granted and is free to completely forget her very growing. This right, to grow.

But it is not exactly so. And now I think that there is no real difference between the two types of actualization, nor between the two waiting figures. Because I know the child knows that as she grows, she loses that one, that specific way of growing, as well as countless other stories of coming of age. And she loses the taking for granted of her growth. Even if the child hides in a seaside bubble, enveloped in a sealed forest, or held in strong arms, I know she knows that in this world children stop growing, one way or the other. They annihilate. There. And here, too.

Waiting, a narrative form of attachment, running through the entire width of a single photographed moment, the entire length of a plot, of a story of initiation. It thickens time in an attempt to slow down the passage through it as much as possible. It is the heart-rending attempt to keep away the loss, which is already there. 

Photography, writing, childhood: the art of waiting. The art of loss.

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