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In praise of patience

Michele Bellini / Mar 2020

Image: Shutterstock

 

We are living through the days of patience. A concept as old as our species, but that no longer finds space in an era defined by its opposite, impatience. Today time is money, we want it all and now, and, although we have never been so connected, we are more indifferent to one another. We are no longer used to be patient; perhaps we have even forgotten what it means.

It is probably for this reason too that we perceive what is happening as something even more absurd, unthinkable, unknown. Rediscovering patience, in its multiple meanings and in all its richness, helps us to better understand the present and, therefore, re-build a brighter future.

In the beginning, patience is endurance: of those suffering from illness, those who will have to wait before embracing their loved ones again, or those who have lost someone without even saying goodbye. Patience is passively undergoing events that we would have wanted to be different. It concerns, then, the relationship between an individual and the world.

Yet, patience may also become courage. It is more active and deals with the relationship of each person with oneself. It is brave because it is farsighted. It is strong because it requires control over one’s instincts. He who is patient is worth more than a hero; those who dominate themselves are worth more than those who conquer a city, we read in the Book of Proverbs. Each of us today is asked to be a hero, dominate our desires, and stay home to save others. There will be time to go back to conquering cities.

Patience also refers to language. As everything in nature takes its own time to come into being, so do words: they need to be pondered, they need a patient silence. How often have words shaped human history! How crucial is it to appreciate the power of words right now! It is true for all kinds of words: the words of comfort to those in pain; the words of frustration that we would be tempted to scream; but also the words of politicians, pregnant with consequences for us all, and the words spoken by doctors and scientists, which we wait every day, trusting they would bring hope.

Indeed, patience is also hope. It is waiting for something: the child, for the pregnant mother; the plant, for the farmer; Ithaca, for Ulysses; the Kingdom of Heaven, for the believer. Not surprisingly, patience and hope share the same etymological root in many languages: in Spanish, for example, esperar means both waiting and hoping. Today, we are esperando. That is how patience turns into a dream, upon which re-founding a different, better tomorrow.

Endurance, courage, strength, silence, hope, dream. In each of these, patience refers to the passing of time. Once these extraordinary times will have gone by, will we manage to cherish the virtue of patience? Yes, if - as the journalist Gabriella Caramore suggests in an Italian pamphlet titled "Patience" - we give it one last meaning, transcending time and the ego. That is, if we transform patience from a quality of duration into a moral one, called care. After all, “taking care of all living creatures requires time, attention, waiting: in a word, patience”.

 

Michele Bellini

Michele Bellini

March 2020

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