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>The Human Condition

March 24, 2010

>This is a representation of The Human Condition by Magritte, whose artwork (in print form) decorates many of the halls of Non-Necromancy Manor.

And this is a poem by Howard Nemerov, entitled The Human Condition:

In this motel where I was told to wait,
The television screen is stood before
The picture window. Nothing could be more
Use to a man than knowing where he’s at,
And I don’t know, but pace the day in doubt
Between my looking in and looking out.

Through snow, along the snowy road, cars pass
Going both ways, and pass behind the screen
Where heads of heroes sometimes can be seen
And sometimes cars, that speed across the glass.
Once I saw world and thought exactly meet,
But only in a picture by Magritte.

A picture of a picture, by Magritte,
Wherein a landscape on an easel stands
Before a window opening on a land-
scape, and the pair of them a perfect fit,
Silent and mad. You know right off, the room
Before that scene was always an empty room.

And that is now the room in which I stand
Waiting, or walk, and sometimes try to sleep.
The day falls into darkness while I keep
The TV going; headlights blaze behind
Its legendary traffic, love and hate,
In this motel where I was told to wait.

I love the image of seeing “world and thought exactly meet” when he’s describing cars passing by outside the window; it sounds to me like he wanted to see a car of the exact same make, model, and color as one on the TV screen, and hoped that the speeds would be synchronized enough to give him that one-second picture, superimposed…but only art can hold a good enough mirror up to reality.

This is a week of waiting, for me. It’s spring break at the college I commute to, so I’m finishing up a few projects and beginning others. I’m getting ready for Walker’s fourteenth birthday party on Friday night. We’re all preparing for the kids’ spring break next week, which Ron and Eleanor will start out by touring some colleges to see how she likes them, and Walker will finish up by traveling to a big chess tournament, where I will spend time in a motel room, waiting to see how his games end.

When have you had to wait? How did you pass the time?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2010 1:08 pm

    >I love Magritte! Waiting is no fun but it can be better (I think!) if you have lots of British television shows on DVD to watch.

  2. March 24, 2010 1:08 pm

    >I had to wait at AJ's chess club tournament yesterday and I found it nerve-wracking. I was thinking about you!

  3. March 24, 2010 1:18 pm

    >The Magritte and the groups of animals wall art perfectly capture the NNP family spirit.Waiting is a very passive for all that it is a verb… just a thought. (Did that make sense?)-lemming

  4. March 24, 2010 2:19 pm

    >I am always waiting, it seems. I carry a book with me at all times so that waiting is not a bad thing because I can use that time to read. Otherwise, I'd spend it being mad that I'm having to wait. I hate waiting. I'm waiting for Friday, a day off (it's what the staff get for the students' spring break). I'm waiting for constant warm weather. I'm waiting for my kids' spring break which I'm taking off. I'm waiting for….a query to pay off. I've waited in doctor's waiting rooms, in line pretty much every where. But I always have a book.

  5. March 24, 2010 5:30 pm

    >I've noticed a lot of TV's in front of windows. It goes with the curtains that never get opened in the other rooms. I know the logic–it cuts down on reflection for daytime TV watchers–but I've always found it unutterably depressing.I also think it is a class marker. Another thing I've noticed through staring into other people's housees is that fancier folk often have their flat-screen mounted on the wall over the fireplace as if it were a painting, where they have to crane their necks to see.

  6. March 24, 2010 6:04 pm

    >Ah yes, waiting. I wrote about the way time changes when you wait in an ER (as I did when my older son fractured his skull). I had no idea what time it was when I left the hospital, time had sort of stopped existing.I’ve also waited while events unfold. The last five months have been nothing but waiting—waiting for insurance to decide our claim had merit, waiting while insurance decided what was covered and to what amount, and finally waiting while our general contractor has rebuilt our home.Did I mention I am not a very patient woman?

  7. March 25, 2010 1:02 pm

    >Jenny, I have all the Monty Python episodes, but have only ever watched them in the privacy of my own home, and if I'm home, I don't count it as waiting.Harriet, it can be nerve-wracking to wait for the outcome of a chess game, but less so once your child is old enough to genuinely feel like a good sport (rather than just going through the motions). Walker is so mature about chess now that it feels like his own thing, not mine.Lemming, I'm amused that we have a family spirit, but yeah. And waiting is the most passive of verbs–even lying needs a helper (like "down" or "around") to be so passive.Freshhell, I always have a book too. In case I should ever run out, I keep a paperback under the seat of my car.Trapunto, I think you're right; it is something of a class marker now. Nemerov was always a little snide about such things, maybe in the hopes of making more people notice what they were missing.I have a Magritte print of a train coming out of a fireplace above my fireplace.Elizabeth, That's definitely one thing you learn as a parent–patience. I made my kids look me in the eyes last night and told them to gather up all their stuff for school and get it in their backpacks. I took them to school this morning. Then I got a call that Walker had forgotten a notebook and needed it by second period, whenever that is, so I had to turn around and go back. Sigh.

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