Slow down to
get in touch with
Monday, December 09, 2013 2:30 AM
Slow and steady wins the race. This is one of several concepts presented to the youth of today through Aesop's fable, "The Tortoise and the Hare." At least, I think kids today are still learning about Aesop's fables. I hope.
A brief overview: Tortoise challenges Hare to a race because Hare is making fun of him. After beginning the race, Hare promptly starts to dominate Tortoise, but cockily decides to stop and take a nap. Hare then loses the race after sleeping too long, which allows Tortoise to pass him and cross the finish line first. It's a classic tale.
On the surface, this story is ridiculous (as are all of Aesop's personified fables). Who was more gifted in racing? Clearly the Hare. The Tortoise had zero percent chance of winning. However, the better question is: who was smarter? Clearly the Tortoise. His consistent effort and perseverance ended up confounding all those who had written his ability off in favor of Hare.
It's a tale of true identity and the importance of character. Tortoise was considered by his personified animal-society as slow and therefore not able to succeed. Hare was quick, witty and therefore worthy of the praises of society.
Tortoise's win proved on a rather deep level that he had many characteristics that led to lasting strength. Hare's loss proved that he put stock into that which was fleeting and impulsive.
Almost a month ago, I attempted to watch the University of Minnesota Marching Band's Indoor Marching Concert via webstream. I pulled up the website and connected my computer to the television in order to watch it on a larger screen.
The band's introduction began and I started to sit down, ready to enjoy the concert. Suddenly, the stream froze. Thus, began two hours worth of watching jumpy video while constantly refreshing the website. It was definitely not what I wanted and my frustration showed. I've discovered what I lacked in my character that evening was exactly what the Tortoise had in abundance: patience.
According to the Google-generated definition I pulled up in three seconds, patience is "the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or suffering without getting angry or upset." I think there is a lot to learn here.
We live in a world where instantaneous access is being demanded increasingly. In some aspects of life, this is a very good thing. Heightened communication improves emergency response and work efficiency. Relationships can be strengthened over long distances more easily because of technological advancements. These are good things. However, we need to be vigilant in ensuring these good things aren't spoiled by negative consequences of the "instant society."
In many ways, we have become accustomed to the immediate opportunities in our lives. I sense we can even take these blessings for granted. Being able to instantly connect is becoming a more ubiquitous social expectation. I wonder if our patience is often times the cost for this immediacy. Before social media, Netflix and the Internet as a whole, were humans more patient?
Patience is a personal attribute that is either developed or not. The ability of patience comes from choosing to be patient. The more a person chooses to accept and tolerate without getting upset, the more patience that person will have in situations when patience is needed.
For example, waiting in line is a good test and refiner of patience. Being able to accept delay with the calm perspective that it won't last forever is important. My example of the concert webstream exemplifies the kind of stress and frustration you want to avoid over such a trivial matter. I may have missed quite a bit of the concert, but in the grand scheme of life, it's not going to matter. Success in and enjoyment of life isn't contingent upon what happens in one moment; rather, it is a process where many moments coalesce to form the whole. The masterpiece is created by many brushstrokes, not one.
Health problems and personal sufferings beyond control refine one's patience even more. Patiently enduring without getting angry or frustrated is a tremendous characteristic. I admire anyone who possesses it.
In what aspects of your life are you more likely to be impatient?
I've found that developing patience leads to other qualities such as forgiveness, hope, compassion and understanding. Writing letters, working on large jigsaw puzzles and, in general, doing something that takes time can help.
In our fast-paced and busy world, it often takes slowing down to get back up to speed with these lifelong values. Strive to be as quick as the Hare, but also utilize Tortoise-like patience.