19 January 2023

Patience (2)


Patience (2)

Patience: What is the point of being patient?

Topic by Cristina

Essay by Lawrence



Patience is considered one of the seven virtues, although patience does not seem to have a high status value as some of the other virtues ((1) humility, (2) charity, (3) chastity, (4) gratitude, (5) temperance, (6) patience, and (7) diligence see Encyclopaedia Britannica). I mean no one has been made a saint or knighted for being patient although I suspect many mothers and pet owners would qualify with flying colours.


But the sub heading of our topic “What is the point of being patient?” is an invitation to consider whether patience has any value; maybe any value at all. A lot depends on what we mean by patience and more specifically under what conditions should we be patient.


Indeed the conditions of the situation are key for our interpretation of patience: how patient should we be? This requires two things from us, the first is that we recognise the “natural” process of the situation and the second is that we are aware, as much as possible, what the process involves before we arrive at a desired process. By “natural” I mean the necessary conditions required for something to happen or bring to fruition. For example a “3-minute egg” (boiled egg) requires three minutes cooking in sufficient boiling water that covers the whole egg. Complaining about how long it is taking to get the egg ready would immediately suggest that one does not know what three minutes are and how long they are. But most important of all, not knowing that to boil an egg requires putting it in boiling water suggests that we are not aware of the “natural” process of boiling an egg. We have all seen those photos of people trying to put petrol in the all electric car: enough said.


One can, however, have all the patience in the world but if after the said time the egg is still not cooked, then that should suggest something has gone wrong. In this case the natural process of the three minute egg was not met and most certainly we are not fully aware of the process of making a three minute egg. But in many situations we might not know what the process is for what we are trying to achieve. And sometime we’re not within the light cone of something that has gone wrong with the process of boiling a three minute egg.


But just because we do not know what the process for a certain outcome is, we might have a good idea of what that process might involve. Very few people have a detailed knowledge of how to get an airplane ready with passengers and then go on its way. Our patience is tested when we are not given any information about why we are experiencing long delays with our flight. Having relevant information about an uncomfortable situation might pacify and mitigate any impatience we might be experiencing.


On a flight we were taking from a European country, the departure was delayed because of fog: it was foggy and people took it in their stride. On the way to the runway the captain told us that he was delayed in the traffic because of the thick fog on the roads. Things happen.


On the other hand, a recent journey to the north of the country from the capital we were told that we had to get off the train half way because of engineering problems on the line and that we’ll be taken to our destination by coach. After waiting one and a half hours for the coach and no coached appeared, we discovered that the engineering problem happened during early in the night long before we were anywhere near our platform to depart on our journey.


People were, justifiably, not too patient waiting for the coaches to arrive. The reasonable question everyone was asking was why the coaches haven’t arrived given how long the train company knew about the problem. Everyone was blaming bad management, which was quite a reasonable thing to do. If truth be told many coach drivers were already on holiday for an extended long weekend and very few coaches were available at shortish notice.


In effect, information mitigates against losing our patience is a sufficient factor to control ourselves as already mentioned. One side effect of losing our patience is that we might become too emotional and lose control of the situation, which might be dangerous for all concerned. On the other extreme there is no point of being patient in some situations. The question is not whether we are reasonable or not to be impatient but what to do in the situation. The best option is probably to walk away from the situation itself. And if we cannot just walk away today we are lucky to have social media where we can vent our frustration and calm our emotions.


This brings me to the importance of patience in this day and age of the internet and mobile telephone communications. Those of us who know what a dial up telephone is or a typewriter is never had to remember PIN numbers, ID password or installation processes. Today installing applications on our mobile phone or dealing with error codes on our PC requires a level of patience probably never intended by evolution and the selection process. But this is also the age when we need to be cognisant of some technological dexterity. But is it worth it?




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PhiloMadrid meeting on Skype 6:30pm Sunday 22nd January: Patience (2)



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