Motto: How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young? Paul Sweeney
It should be generally accepted as a universal truth the fact that with every day of our lives, we are getting older. We can of course chose any other word instead of ‘older’, there is quite a wide range - smarter, wiser, nicer, richer, fatter. However those would be no longer acceptable as universal truths, because we evolve differently during our timeline, depending on a great number of factors.
I have browsed through the Quote Garden this evening, like every time when I plan to write something, in search of a nice motto. As expected, patience is regarded mostly as a virtue, the aptitude of wise people. Perfectly qualifying as one of the ways out of the so-called crisis (or better say one of the ways to survive in the new world paradigm which we are experiencing lately).
Why choose ‘patience’ as a way ahead? First reason that comes to mind is because I admire it in some people around. Of course not all people who do not (re)act can be qualified as patient, there is a fine line between virtue and weakness, just as in all character features.
What would then be the definition of patience in my view?
I would describe 'patience' as a certain type of action (or even a certain lack of an obvious action), at a certain moment, sustained over a certain time, triggered by a certain evaluation of a certain situation, correlated with a certain decision regarding the best choice of action, with the ultimate purpose of achieving a certain goal in the wisest possible manner.
Have I lost you already? ...
Have a little patience and try reading it again, perhaps even putting it in a certain context relevant for your own experience (sometime when you really believed you were patient...). I strongly believe that if any of the components in that phrase are missing, then the action cannot be qualified as patience and the person is not really patient. If the time line is wrong or if the evaluation of the situation is not proper or if the choice of action (or lack of it) is mistaken or if the purpose is not achieved, then we actually deal with bad results or at least with missed opportunities.
The most frequent mistakes made by impatient people are either uselessness (unneeded actions which do not harm but also do not help anyone, are just a waste of energy) or even destructiveness (usually actions without reasonably understanding the situation). The difference is most important for the impact on the community around the impatient person, as some actions which seem just useless for some, are destructive for others.
Sometimes the actions of the impatient can be constructive, but this would be mostly triggered by coincidence. A chain of lucky coincidental events can trigger the persistence of the impatient in his / her behavior and even a gradual worsening of the destructive potential. Usually such person is not even ill-intended, as in case of planned destructive behavior we usually deal with patient planners.
On the other hand, patience does not mean just waiting loooong before you answer a question or endlessly gathering data before acting in a certain direction. The patient’s wisdom comes from knowing exactly when is time to act and when is time to wait and see or listen or gather more information. This knowledge is partially inherited, partially educated and partially driven by experience. Therefore the sooner you experience harmful effects of your own impatience, the faster you get better at feeling that right moment or at choosing those right battles. Just like John Dryden said almost 400 years ago: ‘Beware the fury of a patient man’.
And so, the second reason why I have thought about this way ahead was because I have begun to build on my skills in terms of patience and have already learned that the best possible teacher is the negative experience.
And cooking... well, this is a big part of it, and the motto is very much right. And I realize more and more how much I miss the regular patience lessons from my kitchen. The childhood for example was a constant lesson of patience - either queuing for food or waiting for miracles to come out of the oven. I was always amazed about how long can half an hour really be, when you are not allowed to open the oven door, no matter how curious you are whether the cake is really growing. Because once you opened it prematurely, the disaster was guaranteed. And back in my childhood there was no glass window on the oven door… There was also clear for how long you have to mix the eggs with the sugar so that they become puffy enough.
I also knew how long it takes to get to my grandmother by train and already learned that sleeping and talking makes the time go faster. And I was never really a train sleeper …
Usually there is a direct (but reasonable!) correlation between good things and waiting time.
When I was very young, there was one Romanian movie called “Hurry up slowly!” My mother liked the title so much (the movie was also nice…), that she tried for years to carve those words into my mind. I believe she was never really happy with the results of her efforts, as I was always more the type ‘Oh God, give me Patience! NOOOOW!”
Lately I have seen that it is better to slow down and take more time to understand things before acting based on my emotions. I believe this is especially important when people experience negative feelings, which are usually bad advisers. There is something to be learned from stones, rivers and trees, but also from birds and bees, or from predators and prays. We should learn to be patient without forgetting that we need to act in time, efficiently and in the direction of our purpose.
The way in which a wisely patient person chooses to live his/her life should be highly correlated with one of the roots I approached last year, respectively ‘the tolerance’. Such a person should know just how much he/she can tolerate without action, what action needs to be taken and why, when and for how long, so that the result is consistent with the intended purpose. And this can be best achieved when it comes naturally, part intuitive and part reasoned, in a beautiful combination of self-confidence, maturity and courage. And in order to achieve this, some of us need a lifetime, some less and some even longer than that.
This Christmas I wish to all of you that you may learn the lesson of patience early enough in your life so that you can contribute in teaching it to others.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!