Thursday, January 22, 2009

Philosophy: Patience really is a good thing!

Patience is a virtue. This is an often quoted sentence and one which appears to be becoming increasingly ignored.

The ever accelerating nature of society and its desire for instant gratification has led to a widespread attitude that everything must be had now. If we can’t have it now, then we have to go and look for something else that is instantly available. Then, once we have whatever it is we obtained, be it either an object or an achievement, we are then immediately looking for the next step rather than enjoying or appreciating what we have.

The rate at which modern society loses interest in new things, on both an individual and societal basis, shows that not only are we losing patience but also that boredom is the result of this loss. Life has become more focused on achievement rather than the journey to achievement. This leaves people in a constant state of stress – unable to relax because there is always another goal which must be attained.

And what is boredom really? I can understand being a little bit bored at work when a job is not stimulating, but there is no excuse for boredom at home. Boredom at home is surely just a sign of a lack of imagination, and probably the reason why so many sit transfixed by the gogglebox as it spews tripe at them. But I digress.

A little bit of patience brings relief from stress and can also bring a far greater reward than the endless treadmill of goal-oriented high achievement. The patience to sit in front of a painting at an art gallery and marvel at the intricate brushwork and the imagination and the talent of the painter to produce such a dynamic picture brings an affirmation that we, as humans, have an immense amount of talent stored away if we could only access it. It may have taken the painter months or even years to produce the work. It would have been unachievable without a good store of patience. The same can be said of authors, architects (at least those who genuinely want to create, rather than build a box!) and many other creative people. Accessing this talent is usually the problem, sometimes because people may grow up being told they have no talent, but also when people don’t have the patience or imagination to try new things. How do you know if you can paint or not unless you try? One of my lost opportunities is drawing; I know I can draw because on one, and only one, occasion I drew a walking boot in incredible detail, but I haven’t had the patience to it again. It did, however, help me get rid of the notion that I couldn’t say I couldn’t do something unless I had first tried it.

However, perhaps the most important use of patience is to take time to learn about ourselves as individuals. There are so many messages being thrown at us every day verbally, visually or subliminally, that it is difficult to sort out what we want as individuals from what we are being told we should want by other interested parties. These include private companies, advertising firms, our employers, our families, government and many more. It is like trying to see the night sky through a telescope in the middle of a city. The stars are visible, but without seeing what the night sky is like without all the light interference from an urban area, we are unaware of how magnificent it really is.

It takes a significant amount of patience to sit and learn about yourself. Some people never find this patience and go through life in cascade of ever-changing values dependent on the latest expectations others have of them. This patience might be thought of as meditation, but I do not necessarily agree with that interpretation as patience and self-knowledge are not necessarily about spirituality. The application of patience in life provides a long-lasting benefit. It allows us to spend time thinking about what we really want, not what society and/or mass marketers are telling us we should want. Once we know this, our decision-making processes become a lot less conflicted.

Patience allows unhurried and clear assessment of options and of opportunities. It is also a shield from over stimulation and a way in which life can be simplified and made far more enjoyable. It clears the fog that is advertising and spin and allows contemplation of what is on offer. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there needs to be certainty of outcome, far from it, but it does mean that if the future is clouded, this fact is accepted and doesn’t cause unnecessary stress. Patience will assist in bringing calm until the haze clears.

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