Godot: Our Beacon Ever on the Horizon

For a philosophy student to be writing on the topic of the meaning of life seems almost cliche and pretentious. Which is why it falls to me to bear the heavier weight of somehow addressing this topic while establishing some sense of credibility of why I know what life means, as a 20 year old boy, and all the while keeping the attention of my reader, by not regurgitating what others have said before me. I have to make the mesh of ideas that are already known appear new. Since my ultimate goal is clarity, as this is a philosophy paper, I’ll go ahead and outline the problem: Richard Taylor tries to save the human condition from meaninglessness by turning to the subjective, that the meaning for a person’s life is apparent by his or her will to live. However, when one take sit upon themselves to watch Waiting for Godot, that is to say view the human condition critically, it is easy to see that meaning does not simply arise out of some initial breath we take by instinct. For it is true, that eventually the day comes, when our will to live falters, and that is precisely when the meaning of life becomes a question. So, I will attempt to present an interpretation of Waiting for Godot that will show that Richard Taylor’s noble intentions sadly fall short of its mark.
What can be said, though, of Waiting For Godot? It’s hard, exactly, to conjure up the words that seem to stick to what you see, more importantly, to how your visions make you feel. The scenes and words are disturbing to say the least, but not in the same sense as a horror movie. It is scary, certainly, to watch Vladmir think our thoughts, with perhaps a different accent, or a different face than the way we imagine ourselves. “There is nothing to be done”. The opening line seems to contain within it an the very end, the result of all this time we spent, thinking, yelling, passing time, crying, sleeping. We are, all of us, Vladmir, certainly. We have those temporal bodies around us, friends perhaps called Estragon, or those we look down the bridge of our noses at, with moral superiority whom we might name Pozzo, out of spite. But these critiques and self inflation, these whispers to ones-self that we see the truth, unlike these blind fools or naive simpletons, these only last until nightfall. For then, when the shadows creep up on us and join the ranks of our doubts, when the sun no longer chases that critiquing agency away from ourselves, that is when we fear, that we are no different. We mean to separate ourselves, to save us from the muck surrounding us by throwing our self image onto a grand pedestal that licks the clouds. But the dusk blends it all together! We cannot tell where the edge of our pedestal begins and the slime ends. Our grand walls crafted to seal out the evil are shoddily laid! There are cracks in our foundations, letting doubt slip through unhindered. It is during the night time that the question assaults our minds in its most vulnerable state: “Why?” Why indeed. Why, if why wasn’t the most deadly word to ever invade the human language, I don’t know what would be. Taylor tries to re-mortar our castle, pinning up posters of the mantra “The point of living is simply to be living”. If only it were so easy, perhaps we would live in perpetual daytime. But no, that would not be any easier, for if that were true, then would we not have all finished our task? Why do we not quit it and leave then, for surely all of us have already lived? Surely, the point of life cannot be to live the longest? For the sustaining of life is the very means to that goal shrouded in shadows! How can it also be our deliverance? I do not fault Taylor for trying to save the souls of mankind from these trying surroundings, but it seems the advice would be better suited for fresh-eyed babes. Better suited, indeed, to those who have not already stumbled across the chasm that echoes back your resounding “Why?” If only it were so simple as to pass time by telling jokes, and entertaining your mind, as Vladmir and Estragon are so fond of doing. However, these distractions only fill the time between nightfall, that dreaded hour of contemplation; they do not prevent it. How are we to go on into the dark night without a guiding sense of direction, without a purpose, other than to live? Is not life here the same as life over there? We can build sand castles here, but perhaps they build theirs with rocks across the way, it makes no difference. No, it makes no difference at all where you are to build your castles, but rather, why you are building them. To live for the sake of living is a submission. It is shouting into the void “You have won! You destroy my attempts to find order within you, Oh world, and thus I retreat into my own self.” But this is not honest, this is not true. How could you look yourself in the mirror and say “My meaning is fully contained within this shell. My purpose is to live and live alone.”? How could you say this and keep a straight face, eh? No, you see, there is within the human experience a great rift, between our expectations and the world. Camus likened it to yelling in frustration to the world, but the wall in between us prevents any answer from returning. We demand order! And receive nothing of the sort from the other party. So what is to be done then? To wait for Godot, of course. We, as Vladmir, are well aware that Godot has no intentions of coming, or rather, it is more likely accurate that Godot has no intentions as Godot does not exist as such. Godot is the embodiment of hope. He is that beacon within the vast darkness that pulls us towards it. But it is only the fool that thinks he is moving with any progress towards it. No, I’m afraid that no such luck is to be had. We are walking on a treadmill, with our eyes up as to not look down, anticipating the meeting with our Godot. When the darkness descends, however, and our legs start to slow; it is then that we feel the ground taking us away from our beacon. Our lives are not a list of accomplishments. They are not fulfilled within themselves. They are a paradox. For we are fully aware of the redundancy of our futile actions, our full sprint towards the exact same spot in relation to our Godot, and yet, we continue. We acknowledge this contradiction with a nod, and continue about our way, as if it were a small child, gazing at us in amazement, and carry on, towards Godot.
I find it necessary to address an issue that arose when I first approached this topic, which is the internal or subjective meaning of life. I must admit, I, before fully examining the topic, was a proponent of the idea that meaning can only be found within one’s self. It did not seem possible to find an outlet in this absurd world that would serve as a sufficient source of meaning for our radically subjective lives. However, I came to realize that a meaning of life that did not ground itself in some way to the world in which it was supposed to have meaning, made no sense. While it is true that our Godot, if you will, our ultimate goal is at least subjectively ordained, it cannot be said that the meaning comes from within ourselves, or else we would have no need to pursue it. Even if our Godot be something ethereal or divine, such as God, that lends itself to be an objective meaning. Even if our goal was unexplained by detailed words, if it was some great cloud within our minds that we only knew bits and pieces of, we would still need it to be outside ourselves for us to find any meaning in such a goal. I cannot believe that the point of life is simply to live, because that is no point at all. I found it most difficult to address this issue in what you might consider conventional language for a philosophy paper, simply because of the structure of the problem. It is a personal problem, indeed. I could never answer the question as to why another man lives the way he does, save to say he is pursuing some Godot that is apparently different than mine. I also found a necessary part of meaning to be that it must incorporate an absurdity. We mean a very different thing by the meaning of a human life than by the meaning of a play. The human life finds meaning in taking that subjective drive and applying it across the absurd gap to the impersonal world. I cannot say with much certainty whether or not I discovered some truth here today, for I can make little claim as to the workings of other minds. However, consider this an exhibition of my drive towards my own Godot, the drive to educate a human race that is mainly cold to my advances. I feel as though Godot’s light were so close I could feel it on my skin, but I know this is only a trick of the sun, the daylight that keeps our minds away from idle thoughts, and yet, I am not disheartened.


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