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The Daily Tar Heel

Return of the Rocking Horse People

We rush ever forward in the progress of a circle. We never change places - there are no places to exchange.

It's the same old world. It's a line around the corner. Round each corner lies the tail of a new line.

You and I are waiting there.

You and I spend a lot of time waiting.

You'll find us at the car wash, at the bus stop, at the checkout counter of the Home Depot.

A line is an offer we can't refuse.

No one makes us stand in it, but we wait anyway because what it is we want at the end of the line (or the beginning, depending on how we look at it) is worth the wait.

At the bank we wait for money. We fill out forms with our names and numbers, wait a while, give the forms to a teller who fills out her own names and numbers and types things, and gives us money or a receipt or both - and maybe a smile, a "Have a nice day."

We wait pensively in a chair in the waiting room of the doctor's office, sometimes hearing of our fate, others just coming up for a shot, for a bottle of pills, or for a small piece of paper that we take to the pharmacy and exchange for the pills, after waiting in line behind all the others with their needs, and after waiting, of course, for the filling of the bottle.

We wait to hear if we got into school. If we did, then we wait for school to begin and end, and for our grades and for checks.

We spend so much time waiting, we've come so far from the root of the thing that we ignore the essential question: What are we waiting for?

The thing at the root of the wait is, at least in the doctor's office, clear.

We wish to preserve our health, or to amend or prevent ill health.

Preserving health includes maintaining a diet and finding shelter from the unfriendly cold and rain of our environment.

In the past we foraged and killed for food and took cover as we found it. Nowadays we're more abstract. Money buys all of the things we need to survive on earth.

We wait in line at the bank to get the money to buy food, shelter- all of the necessary items of existence.

Waiting is a survival skill of the modern "we."

We go to school so we can get a degree and hopefully get a job and earn small pieces of paper that we exchange at the bank for smaller pieces of paper that buy things.

The more money we can make, the more extravagant the food and shelter become.

Meantime a check gets us by.

To make the money that buys the food, we must be able to transport ourselves efficiently from A to B. Cars move faster than legs, but to secure the privilege of driving them we must first obtain a license, and to obtain a license we must wait in line.

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After that, in our cars, we wait in traffic for all the others who waited for their own licenses and move similarly.

All the fundamental processes of living, abstract as they've become, include a wait.

Yet there is more to life than its necessities.

Beyond food and shelter and travel for the purpose of earnings, there is a road we know well, that we travel upon for no reason but the pure enjoyment of it.

We make money to spend money, or we make it jointly to spend and save, though what is saved is passed along and spent another time, or invested for the purpose of compounding before spending and saving again.

We have fun with money, but we wait for it.

We wait in a line at the amusement park or in the stadium, or outside of the stadium or the park for a ticket to get inside, or in a line to get a wristband to wait in another line to get a ticket to get inside and be, hopefully, amused by the tricks the players perform for us.

Even love is a thing for which we wait. We wait not only for the thing to come along, for the amorphous "Her" to appear from among the shadows of our dreams.

After, we wait at the airport as She ambles up the causeway, as the attendant is rummaging through our pockets, running her detectors along the contour of our limbs.

We look to the first embrace, to the friendship we've missed all the time we have been waiting.

When it comes it seems worth it.

It's almost better that way. We never take a first touch for granted.

Waiting is the price we pay for living together.

The advancement of one depends on the advancement of all, just as one's digression speaks of all our folly.

We're bound to the fulfillment of our needs and our desires, to the needs and desires of those around us, and to the system we've made that renders those things attainable.

No cuts!

When one of us moves too quickly, or in the wrong direction, we'll pull back again with the crowd, or be tugged by it, gradually, forward in the line.

Paul Tharp is a first-year law student. Reach him at

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