The importance of not waiting for others

It is important not to wait for others, at least not always. Sometimes it is important to just do things on your own. This can be anything from having fun, travelling or taking a spiritual journey. Let’s say you want to stream a new series or movie online. You have flatmates or friends who’ve said they want to watch it with you but they keep finding excuses. They are tired or lazy that day, they’ve had last minute arrangements with their girlfriends or boyfriends, or they’ve just decided to make unimportant phone calls and gossip with other friends first. Well, screw them! All I know you could have watched not one but two new episodes of that series. Or two different movies and manage to get some work done in between (and we all know how much more productive we can be when there’s a treat waiting for us). As for us the most highbrow fellow, how many times did we want to watch that obscure film from that Scandinavian director but our dear friends (or others) kept asking us to wait for them. Why should our spiritual development (because that is what high art is all about) depend on the laziness of others?

If you’re like me, having to wait for someone usually makes you unproductive. Let’s say you arrange to meet with a friend downtown to grab something to eat or for a quick coffee and chat. Most people would usually try to get some productive work done until then. But if you’re the type of person who gets easily worried about things, your focus will be on the meeting, no matter how informal it is. What happens is you might start working or running some errands but your mind is going to be on that meeting. You are aware of time going by and the meeting approaching. Then you receive a text message from your friend asking you to meet one hour later instead. You are being polite so you say it’s cool and, what the heck, an hour later is fine. Still, you try to do something with your free time but you can’t focus 100%. And things get really bad when you receive a new text cancelling the meeting with some lame excuse. Then you start to get really upset. Not only have you wasted so much time when you could have been working or doing something you had planned to, but you also miss your chance to get out. Had you known in advance you’d have made arrangements with someone else instead.

When I used to live in London, I’d often go to classical music concerts or to the cinema, usually once or twice a week (student tickets were really cheap back then so it was easy for me). In the beginning, I’d usually ask friends of mine to come along. They’d say sure and sometimes they’d ask me to book tickets for them too. Of course, being really polite, I went ahead with the bookings. Only to receive a text message on the day of the event (never a phone call, always a text) with another lame excuse asking me to cancel the tickets. Sometimes it was too late for me to do so and I’d pay the extra cost. Of course, I’d usually text back and play it cool. “Sure no problem, I just don’t think I can get the money back for the booking at this time,” I’d say. Sometimes my closest friends would text back right away to reassure me that they would definitely pay the ticket price. But more often than not they didn’t.

I had learnt my lesson. After a few similar incidents (OK, after many similar incidents), I decided I would go to the events on my own. And you know what? If people wanted to come along, I’d tell them that I’d already booked my ticket (which was true). Sometimes they would join me anyway. But after a while, I realised that I got too much pressure from them. Quite often they wouldn’t like the concert or the movie. Feeling responsible for that, I’d try to cheer them up. You know, offer to go and buy them a drink afterwards, try to talk about a topic they like. That would work. But I’d feel exhausted after a while. So I took the decision to start going everywhere on my own. And guess what. All of a sudden I started enjoying more all these events without worrying what the person sitting next to me would be thinking. What is more, now I was even free to express myself. I’d laugh out loud with a slapstick comedy joke without worrying that my friend mightn’t have found it funny. I’d let myself be moved by the sheer beauty of a concert.

There are two incidents worth quoting here. The first one was a viewing of the Kieslowski Three Colours trilogy at an arthouse cinema. I went there with a good friend of mine. For those who haven’t seen the trilogy, I won’t give away any spoilers, but let me just say that the trilogy culminates in the finale of the last film (Red). I recall anticipating that moment, that great climax where the trilogy makes sense as a whole, and when that moment finally arrived my buddy burst out laughing. He was like, “Isn’t it funny how the director pulls this off at the finale?” OK, now… Funny??? Jaw-dropping, maybe. You could perhaps say magisterial. Virtuosic even. But funny, ha-ha funny???

I vividly remember another occasion: it happened to be my name day and to celebrate it I went to a concert of Beethoven’s 9th (either at the Barbican or the Royal Festival Hall, can’t remember which one). A friend of mine had joined me, someone who also shared a passion for classical music. I remember being totally moved by the slow movement and its emotional impact overwhelmed me so much, I was doing my best to hold back my tears.

After the end of that movement there was a brief pause, the perfect moment for me to reach out to get a tissue, sniffling, my eyes watery, at which point my friend whispered to my ear: “Oh dear, I hope you didn’t catch a cold on the way here!” For me, that had been the anti-climax of the whole evening and I still remember finding that comment so off-putting. Needless to say, I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the concert. The Ode to Joy turned out to be an Ode to Frustration for me.


Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

Decisions, decisions (Dialectics, no. 4)


It’s the week before Christmas and two businessmen are walking down the busy streets, now full of snow, holding their briefcases. They rush through the crowds and the Christmas decorations and seem to be heading to work. A is an attractive, chiselled-face guy in his 40s while B is an equally attractive, taller and slightly younger guy with a beard. Their conversation goes like this:


A: I don’t like Christmas or seasonal holidays for that matter. Too much stress, yes, but not the usual shopping stress. Well ,that too. But think about it: it’s all about decisions —  where to go on holidays, book new year’s eve at the club or go to the city gala.

B: Well, you know what they say… decisions, decisions…

A: No, please let me finish… Then all the Christmas gifts, Tom wants a new gaming laptop, John wants a console, which means I’ll end up buying both, then gifts for the family, not to mention all the silly gag gifts. And did you know Susie wants to go skiing with the Forresters next weekend but I’d rather take the kids to NY for the weekend. Just a 3-day trip, come back on Monday just in time for Christmas celebrations. Well, the kids want it anyway, I told them not to worry about the costs despite booking last minute flights, after all it’s Christmas, they expect that. But yes, decisions, decisions… And I have so much work at the office, I need to get the secretary book all the details. Anyway, you were saying…?

B: Well, Paul, listen to me for a sec. Take a big breath and listen to me. And this time please let me finish. I’m gonna tell you a story. It was a few years ago, around this time, Christmas time in fact, when I was sent abroad as a war correspondent…

A: OK, hold on! Aren’t we comparing apples to oranges now?

B: You can always find an excuse if you need one.


Going out vs Antonioni (Dialectics, no. 2)


It’s Friday night in the city and two girls are talking on the phone. They’ve been friends for quite a while now but nowadays they don’t see each other very often. The thing is, girl A is a socialite while girl B has been more of an introvert lately, even though she’s been quite popular herself in the past. And now it’s just one of those times when A is trying to convince B to go out.


A: I really don’t understand why you keep saying no. It’s Friday night! Let’s party! You do sound so boring sometimes, sorry to say that…

B: Me boring?

A: Well…

B: It’s just sometimes I really prefer staying in and watching a nice movie. The other day I saw The Eclipse by Italian director Antonioni.

A: Anto-whaaat???

B: Antonioni. He made a trilogy about the vanity of human relationships — at least that’s how I view these films.

A: Are they any good? I can’t stand old, art-house films with no drive. You know these movies with no plot, where nothing…

B: Don’t watch it then. It’s like that indeed. Antonioni’s not the point anyway.

A: Well, you mentioned him. It is a he, right?

B: Goodness gracious me! Of course it’s a he! I’ve been referring to him as a he all this time. Anyway, I’ve only mentioned his name to tell you I’d rather have a quiet Friday night in. Just relax and watch something that in a way speaks to me and explains the whole really complex world of human relationships and how you can never be satisfied with people around you. I mean the film doesn’t really explain that but… it does in a way. You know how you meet people and get all excited only to be disappointed later on and then—

A: Honey, there is no need for me to watch this Antonio stuff to know this. I just go out 3-4 times a week and learn all about human relationships firsthand.

B: You’ve got a point there.

A: Honey, listen to me! Why be miserable, stay in and watch all these depressing movies, only to learn something you can experience in real life? And life’s short you know. Someone said that, don’t remember who. I think it was Mozart. You need to go out more, meet people, fall in love, have fun.

B: OK, but you do realise you make me sound like the most pathetic person on earth. All I say is that sometimes you need to take some solace, when everything around you doesn’t make much sense, I mean that’s when I return to Antonioni or read some Proust.

A: Read some breast???

B: You know what, never mind, let’s just go out.