Victus Spiritus


The Illusion of Patience

27 Oct 2010

Youthful Energy and the Flow of Time

I can clearly recall frustrating moments from my youth. The majority of these memories were the result of waiting. Waiting was an eternity of boredom combined with a constant urgency for the waiting to end. As a child, the thought of standing in line or ordering a product by mail was heresy. The old plastic GI Joe figures had free toy giveaways if you mailed in a request and waited 6-8 weeks for delivery. Hasbro or whoever produced the toys back then, knew kids could never stomach waiting that long for anything. Young people are intimately connected to now.

The Illusion of Patience

If my own experience with time is common, then our perception of time as children is far more rapid than it is as adults. If I get stuck waiting somewhere now it's a blessing. I pull out my phone and jump to where I left off in a Kindle book or Instapapered post. The thought of sitting quietly on the couch with my wife after a long day is blissful. We identify a sense of serene inactivity before anticipated events as patience. But what we label patience, is a dulling of our connection to the present moment and a diminished sense of urgency. Wisdom teaches us that anticipated states once achieved are at best wonderful moments and at worst empty addiction. Once vital needs are met like nourishment, autonomy, and belonging, most achievements are transient shifts in satisfaction. Yet a handful of these life changing desires call us to greater challenges*, and drive us forward with inconceivable energy.

As we age our unit of measure for the passage of time changes from seconds, minutes and hours to weeks, months, and years. With each moment that passes we move forward with a greater depth of memory. At the extreme of our lifespan, our awareness drifts primarily to the past, casually strolling through memories disconnected from the present. Even though the present is more precious than ever, we look back to the times when our energy made us feel immortal.

*= "Greater challenges" is an arbitrary label which has personal meaning for different folks. What's meaningful to each of us is neither constant, nor common.