Patience is a Virtue

January 18, 2022 / 0 Comments

Patience is usually discussed when serenity and calm are nowhere in evidence. In fact, the patience card is often played by the entity in the more powerful position.  In my personal experience, I get told to be patient when someone doesn’t want to admit they screwed up.

“The Importance of Being Earnest,” billed as a trivial comedy for serious people, was written in 1895, but there are sight gags and humor that are clever even today. Oscar Wilde has the wealthy character Algernon say: “Really, if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them?” It’s a head scratcher, that the 1% would expect everyone else to model good behavior for them. This is the root of the notion that “Patience is a virtue.”  In other words, suffer an injustice so that someone else can continue in comfort. Although often attributed to the Bible, it is not a biblical reference.  The description of patience as a virtue is a quote from a poem written by William Langland, a buddy of Geoffrey Chaucer, in the 1360’s.

Langland mixed social satire and a spiritual examination of conscience in a poem titled “Piers Plowman.” It was a 14th century allegorical tale about how to lead a good Christian life.  Of course, the main character, Piers Plowman, is a poor man. This is a good place to note that the last half or the 14th century was a period of disaster and social unrest, of severe visitations of the plague with accompanied moral, social and economic upheaval.  

See the trend?  Popular culture centuries apart recognized that the rich felt they were due privileges.

In our humanness we compartmentalize positive ‘waiting it out’ as anticipation and the less positive inconveniences as suffering. Think the Book of Job. Job is portrayed as the icon of patience, what choice did he have?

In the last two weeks, my highlights have been: the cancellation of my show, a broken sideview mirror on the car, the big kids on half day school, and virtual pre-k3, a once-in-a -lifetime experience. In the tradition of the infomercial, yes there’s more. Current day anxiety creates a story of Job redux. I really don’t want to go there. Within a week the school was back to normal, the side view mirror fixed and virtual pre-k will end soon. A sigh of relief. The need to ‘wait it out’ is a component of both anxiety and patience.

What is popularly labeled as a need for patience might really BE anxiety. Everyday life is serving up plenty of it.

Both patience and its ugly cousin anxiety are internal mechanisms. I’m in favor of throwing the whole notion of “patience as a virtue” out with the bath water.  Keep the baby.

Telling someone to be patient is as futile as telling them not to be anxious. Yet, folks like the character of Algernon are quick to admonish another to be patient or not to let things bother you.

It doesn’t work like that, but there’s no need to get stuck in an unending loop of negativity. After all people like me have a responsibility to set an example for the higher orders. Yeah, right.

Especially in the dreary winter, we are drawn to look down to avoid icy sidewalks.  We hunch our shoulders to brace ourselves from the cold and it turns us into ourselves.

Look up! Even in the winter I usually pick up and deliver my three-year-old granddaughter from pre-k via the stroller, which means half the time I’m pushing an empty stroller.  While I make a point to acknowledge my neighbors as we cross paths. It’s not always reciprocated. I’ll agree that the empty stroller kind of says, ‘crazy lady.’  It is a legit means of transportation-often a car doesn’t have a passenger. The winter may be gray and dreary but there is a beauty and the unobstructed view across the river, the white trunk of the bark-less maple trees.

Sometimes it makes me concede that it’s not as cold as I feared. There’s always a surprise like the day I noticed a cardinal perched as if it were the star on my neighbor’s evergreen tree. My granddaughter and I gawked at that bird from all angles.

Despite the cold and the grayness of our winter, which I still dislike. I choose to be glad to be alive.  If my behavior benefits the Algernons of the world, so be it. But they shouldn’t count on me.

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