Virtues of Patience
The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.
“A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else.”
Whenever I think of patience, it reminds me of water. Even, the smallest streams of water in the world embodies the central tenet of patience. No matter how hard a rock is, water can cut through the rock, bit by bit, with enough time.
Water persists with its flow, unwavering, never giving up. It remains patient and keeps flowing as long as it takes, to cut through the rock and make its way. The Grand Canyon we see today was carved into the Colorado Plateau by the Colorado River this way over the course of a few million years
Patience and persistence are sides of the same coin. I don’t see any problem in using the two interchangeably. For the rest of this writing, I will use only the word patience to indicate both.
When you are patient you become a better listener.
Listening is something that we miss a lot in today’s world. Technology is asking us to speak up; All our voices are now “projected” as being equally important. Of course, our voices are important and whether they are treated equal or not is a different discussion. But when all of us raises our voices, against each other at the same time, there will be no one left to listen. The byproduct is that we keep believing that we are all victims. This doesn’t solve anything for anyone.
To solve anything we need to connect with people, and to connect you need to listen. To truly listen to someone, you have to show empathy. Empathy isn’t easy and it takes effort. To take that effort you need patience.
You are a better teacher when you are patient.
As I said earlier, when you are patient you can take the effort to be empathetic. Through patience, you can connect with your students by empathising with them. When that connection is made you start “Teaching” them. They learn not just from your wisdom or your textbooks but also from you, as a person. Let them learn patience from you, and it shall remain forever in their hearts. There isn’t anything far greater than that for them to learn.
When you are patient you learn better.
You accept that new knowledge takes time. Failure to learn something becomes the opportunity to learn deeper. Without patience, you will never learn anything to its core. It teaches you how to survive both your failures and successes. It helps you be the “stream of water” when Mathematics becomes your mountain.
Patience makes you a better lover, father, mother, child, co-worker and a better human being.
Everybody has got their own problems to deal with. The things they do at one moment in time does not reflect who they are. They lead the same complicated lives as you are. But by default, we forget that and judge them harshly, channelling our hate and grudge into them. Patience gives you the choice of understanding that they are only human. It helps you remind yourself that you too are only human. In that acceptance, we connect with everything else.
I have to add, being patient doesn’t mean being submissive or being non-participatory. Being patient just means that you are not reacting to something by default. You respond with inner truth and conviction that you have developed over time through patience.
A changing world.
The world has embraced speed over everything else. Things change at such a rapid pace that we are no longer able to keep up. Without patience, you end up chasing everything out there.
You are fearful of what you might miss out on, even when it means nothing to you. But with patience, you have the opportunity to reflect on your choices and make better choices as you go.
Being patient with your best choices, yields you more in the long run than when you are impatient. Impatience renders you to a fool who keeps jumping from one failure to the other without ever reflecting on what has happened.
Nature and patience.
The beauty of nature lies in its patience. You might think nature is fast, that it is thunderous. When you see a river and you see its water thrashing and growling, charging straight into the ocean. The truth is that the river is never violent nor is it ever rushing. It is going to where it has to be, at its own pace. The apple tree makes the apple in its own time, it is neither slow nor fast. It is just us humans who perceive one as fast and the other as slow.
We have abstracted the word “time” to make it into something that is quantitative. One rotation of Earth becomes a day and one revolution of Earth around the Sun becomes a year and so on. But our abstractions are at a loss when it comes to the “qualitative aspects of time”.
I relate what artists call “rhythm” with the idea of “qualitative time”.
Nature has a rhythm to it, so does every biological system inside it. From the apple tree to how birds migrate there is an underlying rhythm that works in tandem with each other. It is neither too fast, neither too slow. But in nature, we are the only beings who have lost touch with their own rhythm.
We have forgotten how to perceive time qualitatively.
Although dramatic, I believe we are enslaved by our own shallow definitions of time. The day we started keeping time quantitatively we destroyed our ability to follow our own rhythms. The problem wasn’t in the timekeeping but in our lack of acknowledging time’s qualitative aspects.
Our focus on “quantitative time” has played a vital role in how material progress over the last few centuries. But as human society continues to grow, outpacing itself, “qualitative aspects” of time, remains excluded. The faster the world runs, the faster our disconnect with it intensifies. The feeling of emptiness that is characteristic to everyone alive today comes from this disconnect.
A millennia ago people’s biggest problems were not their disconnect with the world. In a past where there was no internet and cellphones, people still knew “enough” and were connected with people to not feel empty inside. Even in poverty and famine, human connections were there. Even in violence, there was enough empathy in their lives.
Today, our lives have improved tremendously. Yes, there are people who suffer, who haven’t seen modernity yet. But on an average living conditions have improved. We have a plethora of gadgets for faster connections and making life easier.
We paid the price for this speed by giving up on real connections. As real connections fade, the emptiness grows, we become less empathetic.
Quality of life today has improved, but we are unable to find a “personal peace”.
It is to this backdrop I call forth the power of patience. To be patient is to rebel against modernity, at least against the things that modernity has gotten wrong. To be patient is to declare that you understand time both in its quantitative and qualitative sense.
It is the quantitative sense of time that makes failures such a stigma. Inside the qualitative framework, failures become an accepted pathway of learning. With patience, you can start observing yourself from the qualitative perspective of time.
The world at large is not going to accept the dual aspects of time any time soon. Humans are lazy when it comes to changing conventions. But by practising patience in your own life you can bring changes in how you perceive everything else. The effect of it carries through to others as well.
As a general rule of thumb do not preach about patience to other people. They are not looking for your advice, what they need is your support. To support someone you have to be grounded from within. Like all else, being grounded comes from your ability to be patient with yourself.
Being patient is the ultimate virtue a human being can have.
Patience elevates your perspective on things, you gain more empathy. Through patience, you are embracing yourself for who you are and who you chose to be. Like water, you keep on flowing to break the mountain, the only small difference here is that unlike water you can choose what your mountains are.