Living the Questions: December 2013

Theme for December
Waiting: the practice of living in time

Questions for contemplation and conversation on your own,
around the dinner table, in your journal, with each other

Download 12-2013-questions


  • What are you waiting for? The future? The next moment?
  • Every stage of life seems to require/offer a different kind (skill set) of waiting . .. What kind of waiting is required of you – at this time in your life?
  • Waiting has a poor reputation. We like fast, instant, efficient. Is waiting truly passive? Or is it active?
  • How is waiting our teacher? What fruits does waiting bear? Patience? Restoration? Hope?
  • What are you waiting for? What is worth waiting for?
  • How does waiting enhance your ability to be present in your own life?
  • What time is it? For you – right now? It is time (to) ______  It is time (for) ______


“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”
—Joseph Campbell


“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.”
—Anne Morrow Lindbergh


“We say we waste time, but that is impossible. We waste ourselves.”
—Alice Bloch


“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”
—Anne Lamott


“When our hearts begin to open, we are able to feel it, like opening the window shade and letting in the sunshine that’s been there all along, waiting patiently to be allowed inside.”
—Dean Ornish



There is a Zone whose even Years
No Solstice interrupt –
Whose Sun constructs perpetual Noon
Whose perfect Seasons wait –
Whose Summer set in Summer, till
The Centuries of June
And Centuries of August cease
And Consciousness – is Noon.

—Emily Dickinson


I Am Waiting by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for my case to come up

and I am waiting

for a rebirth of wonder

and I am waiting for someone

to really discover America

and wail

and I am waiting

for the discovery

of a new symbolic western frontier

and I am waiting

for the American Eagle

to really spread its wings

and straighten up and fly right

and I am waiting

for the Age of Anxiety

to drop dead

and I am waiting

for the war to be fought

which will make the world safe

for anarchy

and I am waiting

for the final withering away

of all governments

and I am perpetually awaiting

a rebirth of wonder


I am waiting for the Second Coming

and I am waiting

for a religious revival

to sweep thru the state of Arizona

and I am waiting

for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored

and I am waiting

for them to prove

that God is really American

and I am waiting

to see God on television

piped onto church altars

if only they can find

the right channel

to tune in on

and I am waiting

for the Last Supper to be served again

with a strange new appetizer

and I am perpetually awaiting

a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called

and I am waiting

for the Salvation Army to take over

and I am waiting

for the meek to be blessed

and inherit the earth

without taxes

and I am waiting

for forests and animals

to reclaim the earth as theirs

and I am waiting

for a way to be devised

to destroy all nationalisms

without killing anybody

and I am waiting

for linnets and planets to fall like rain

and I am waiting for lovers and weepers

to lie down together again

in a new rebirth of wonder


I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed

and I am anxiously waiting

for the secret of eternal life to be discovered

by an obscure general practitioner

and I am waiting

for the storms of life

to be over

and I am waiting

to set sail for happiness

and I am waiting

for a reconstructed Mayflower

to reach America

with its picture story and tv rights

sold in advance to the natives

and I am waiting

for the lost music to sound again

in the Lost Continent

in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day

that maketh all things clear

and I am awaiting retribution

for what America did

to Tom Sawyer

and I am waiting

for Alice in Wonderland

to retransmit to me


Waitin’, waitin’,

I’ve been waitin’

Waitin’, waitin’, all my life.

That light keeps on

hiding from me.

But it someday just might

bless my sight.

Waitin’, waitin’…

Music: William Bolcom; Lyrics: Arnold Weinstein


From Book of Ecclesiastes,

rearranged by Pete Seeger for Turn, Turn, Turn

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

I swear it’s not too late.



Essay: Waiting As a Way of Life by Lance Morrow, Time Mag., 1984

Waiting is a kind of suspended animation. Time solidifies: a dead weight. The mind reddens a little with anger and then blanks off into a sort of abstraction and fitfully wanders, but presently it comes up red and writhing again, straining to get loose. Waiting casts one’s life into a little dungeon of time. It is a way of being controlled, of being rendered immobile and helpless. One can read a book or sing (odd looks from the others) or chat with strangers if the wait is long enough to begin forming a bond of shared experience, as at a snowed-in airport. But people tend to do their waiting stolidly. When the sound system went dead during the campaign debate in 1976, Jerry Ford and Jimmy Carter stood in mute suspension for 27 minutes, looking lost.

Americans have ample miseries of waiting, of course—waits sometimes connected with affluence and leisure. The lines to get a passport in Manhattan last week stretched around the block in Rockefeller Center. Travelers waited four and five hours just to get into bureaucracy’s front door. A Washington Post editorial writer reported a few days ago that the passengers on her 747, diverted to Hartford, Conn., on the return flight from Rome as a result of bad weather in New York City, were forced to sit on a runway for seven hours because no customs inspectors were on hand to process them.

The great American waits are often democratic enough, like traffic jams. Some of the great waits have been collective, tribal—waiting for the release of the American hostages in Iran, for example. But waiting often makes class distinctions. One of the more depressing things about being poor in America is the endless waiting it entails: waiting for medical care at clinics or in emergency rooms, waiting in welfare or unemployment lines.


Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist

Believe that this way of living, this focus on the present, the daily, the tangible, this intense concentration not on the news headlines but on the flowers growing in your own garden, the children growing in your own home, this way of living has the potential to open up the heavens, to yield a glittering handful of diamonds where a second ago there was coal. This way of living and noticing and building and crafting can crack through the movie sets and soundtracks that keep us waiting for our own life stories to begin, and set us free to observe the lives we have been creating all along without ever realizing it. I don’t want to wait anymore. I choose to believe that there is nothing more sacred or profound than this day. I choose to believe that there may be a thousand big moments embedded in this day, waiting to be discovered like tiny shards of gold. The big moments are the daily, tiny moments of courage and forgiveness and hope that we grab on to and extend to one another. That’s the drama of life, swirling all around us, and generally I don’t even see it, because I’m too busy waiting to become whatever it is I think I am about to become. The big moments are in every hour, every conversation, every meal, every meeting. . . .  I believe that if we cultivate a true attention, a deep ability to see what has been there all along, we will find worlds within us and between us, dreams and stories and memories spilling over. The nuances and shades and secrets and intimations of love and friendship and marriage an parenting are action-packed and multicolored, if you know where to look.


from The Family Virtues Guide: Simple Ways To Bring Out the Best In Our Children and Ourselves by Linda Popov

Receptive silence gives others the space to speak fully, to tell you the whole story without interruption.  When the person you are listening to begins to disclose, to talk of what she is feeling, give her your silence, your most receptive, respectful, compassionate, and detached silence.  Concentrate fully, peacefully, in a spirit of trust in the other’s process.  Deep listening cannot occur in the presence of an agenda.  Your purpose is to support, not to rescue or distract or advise.  If you see your child, or anyone to whom you are listening, as a capable, spiritual champion learning her lessons, you will enjoy being a companion to her as she does her spiritual work.  A Fist Nations woman in northern Canada gave spiritual companioning a nickname.  “I can’t remember those words you call it,” she said, “but it sure works with me and my kids. I call it ‘walk along.’”

How long should you remain silent?  A young Maltese priest said, “when you think you have been silent long enough, be silent a little more.” It is sometimes in the silence after someone has shared for a while that the truth dawns from within their awareness.