Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Virtues of Patience

There is an old proverb to the effect that 'Patience is a virtue' and yet, contemporary society does not encourage this virtue at all. In fact, advertising and media in general encourage impatience, promising instant gratification of every need or desire. With the advent of air travel, people no longer had to spend months in journeying from one location to another. Beyond that, items once unavailable during certain seasons became available at all times because of the ability to transport perishable goods from one point on the globe to another.

Dried fruits and nuts, once special treats at Christmas because fresh fruit could not be purchased in Western Europe, has been replaced by an infinite variety of exotic fresh fruits.

There was a time when one only could see a film at the cinema. With the advent of video tapes, one could purchase the film to watch it whenever one wished, but the recording never was available until a year or two had passed since the initial release of the film for cinema. Now DVDs are available only a few months after the release of any film.

Telephone and 'Instant Message' have replaced the letter where communication is concerned.

Parcels can be sent 'overnight' to be delivered the next morning. One needn't even go to a marketplace to purchase an item. One can buy almost anything online and have it delivered.

Where then are we taught the virtue of patience?

Games like Harvest Moon certainly teach the ancient virtue of patience. There is no way that a player can become involved with any Harvest Moon game and expect instant gratification. Harvest Moon games are based on farming, and farming takes time. New options are unlocked only when a certain amount of time has passed. There are few shortcuts.

For this reason, many gamers pronounce Harvest Moon and other games of this genre to be 'boring'. Who on earth wants to plant crops, then water them every day until they can be harvested? Who on earth wants to care for animals on a daily basis?

In fact, repetition of tasks like this can be extremely satisfying if one learns to jettison the expectation of instant gratification that is the curse of contemporary society. When one can take simple pleasure in watching a plant grow from a seed to a crop that can be harvested, one is in harmony with life, even if that life is no more than a 'virtual' one. It is when one becomes anxious to unlock the next option that Harvest Moon and other games like it become 'tedious'.

It is a matter of surrender to the natural rhythm of seasons and Nature. I submit that this is an important spiritual lesson and one that can be invaluable. Anxiety and stress are so much an integral part of contemporary life because we expect too much too quickly. Technology has given us a false sense of control. In fact, Nature is as powerful as ever, and Time still triumphs over our mortal beings. Would we not be more at peace with our universe if we had patience and the ability to sink into the natural rhythm of life?


Shelley said...

Excellent post, Freyashawk!

One of my largest peeves is the advertising world and their attempts to speak as quickly as con artists in order to fool us into buying without thinking things through.

After being conned a time or two I adapted to stop when it happens. I make it a point to push myself to complete even the most slow-going projects so that I'll gain more patience in general. I taught myself to knit, and knit well. I am resolved to teach myself to play guitar as well, which is as laborious as knitting, with less sharp objects. ;)

It's incredibly difficult in our modern world to take our time. It's become clear to me that people really want that, however. As a retail salesclerk at a bookstore chain I was told (in the beginning) that I should take less time with the customers, only to have the customers not only buy three times the number of books, and go back to the managers to commend my service. I sold books for eight years and this was always the case, again and again.

My point (and I do have one I promise) is that the mind of the consumer is not set to fast forward. People DO respond to the slower yet knowledgeable approach. Anyone who says differently is only out to speed it up for the sake of speed.

Freyashawk said...

Thank you for your thoughtful response, Shelley. You offer a ray of hope, and I believe you are correct. I worked on Saturdays at a local doll shop for awhile, and soon it became obvious even to the owner (to her ultimate fury) that people chose to come into the shop on Saturday rather than during the week because I was willing to take the time to learn about them and their tastes in collecting. You speak of bookshops and I know that I always chose to return to a shop where the clerks were enthusiastic about books and could discuss them intelligently with their customers, even when the location was not as convenient or the prices not as competitive as others might be.

Fleming said...

Freyashawk, your insightful essay makes me look at my own impatience, which I must say is one of my most pronounced -- and problem-producing -- traits. I've always "stopped to smell the flowers", but when I want something very much I lose all patience. I once drove to a town 70 miles away to buy a recording I could have received in the mail two days later. That's one example out of hundreds, and one of the least expensive and troublemaking.

I wonder if my problem is a lack of trust: Will something happen to keep from from getting this thing if I don't act now? Will I still be here tomorrow? Will the world still be here tomorrow?

Your words have helped me encourage a good feeling I've had lately -- that I am willingly floating along in a big river, at its pace, rather than trying to set a faster pace myself.

Fleming said...

I forgot something I wanted to say about social order vs. chaos in human society.

You ask, "Why is it that humanity worships those who, by regulating their lives, restrict their freedom of will?" I've read that people who have experienced a breakdown of social order when nothing restricts anyone's actions -- no law, no courts, no police -- say that ANY form of order is better than no order. The population of Iraq comes to mind. Most people who have survived the breakdown of a society into chaos say that they would prefer a strict dictatorship to anarchistic disorder.

That's something we who complain about the social restraints on our freedom should remember. It could be worse.